6 Warm-Up Exercises You Should Do Before You Work Out

Most guys with a regular gym habit are used to hearing fitness professionals stress the importance of warming up without really clarifying what the pre-workout routine should involve. Many fall into the habit of static stretching, but these move are actually better for after you’ve finished your sweat session. Performing a jarring stretch as the first part of your routine could even lead to a muscle strain, so it’s time to find a better warm-up.

In order to prime your body for whatever activity you have planned, you want to go for dynamic moves. These exercises help gently stretch your muscles while increasing mobility, which will help you better perform every lift or sprint. Get started with these six moves.

1. Quadruped extension-rotation

muscular man at the gym kneeling on one leg with his hands on the ground

Man kneeling at gym | Source: iStock

Most of us have pretty poor posture, and, while it’s easy to blame your desk job, many other activities contribute to our slumped shoulders and aching backs. Everything from driving your car to watching TV presents an opportunity for us to round our shoulders forward. This hunched posture, called kyphosis, contributes to back pain and puts you at risk for injuries. You’ll be a lot less likely to hurt yourself if you include the quadruped extension-rotation in your routine to help build strength and increase mobility.

To perform this move, get onto your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Bring your right hand to your head and cup it just behind your ear. From this point, reach your right elbow down and in toward your left elbow, then extend up toward the sky until your right elbow is pointed up and out. Head to Muscle & Fitness to see this move in action. Make sure to move slowly, but deliberately throughout the exercise.

2. Back-to-shoulder wall flexion

muscular man working out at the gym using monkey bars

Man on monkey bars | Source: iStock

Almost any time you move your arms, you employ your shoulder joint in some way. The area is incredibly flexible, enabling us to do everything from open a car door to throw a football, which makes it incredibly susceptible to injury. Strengthening your shoulders is part of the equation, but you shouldn’t even consider lifting heavy weights before a properly warming up these muscles.

One of the most basic warm-up exercises for your shoulders is the back-to-shoulder wall flexion. It’s a very simple movement, but many people find they don’t have the range of motion to do it correctly. Eric Cressey, CSCS, explained on his website this also makes it a great way to assess shoulder health in general.

Begin standing with your back facing a wall and your feet positioned about 6 to 8 inches away from the edge. Lean so your back, including your lower back, is pressed flat into the wall. Keeping your arms fully extended and your palms facing one another, raise your arms all the way overhead until your thumbs touch the wall, if you’re able. Cressey explained some adaptations you can try if you’re dealing with limited movement, so adjust as necessary.

3. Hip circles

man performing bird-dog ab exercise on a gym mat at home

Bird-dog exercise | Source: iStock

A pretty huge portion of the population, both male and female, suffer from tight hips. One of the biggest reasons for this is sitting too long at work, which can shorten hip flexors. Contrary to what you might think, running is also a huge contributor to tight hips. According to Athletico Physical Therapy, the repetitive motion and the need to compensate for weak glutes lead to stiff hips.

By including warm-up exercises focused on the hips, you’ll help work toward a greater range of motion. Hip circles are one of the simplest ones you can do because they don’t require any equipment and they’re also incredibly effective.

Get started on all fours with your knees directly below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Keeping your knee at a 90-degree angle the entire time, draw a circle with your right knee going backwards, up to the sky and out to the side, then bringing it back in to complete the circle. You can also switch directions. After completing your desired number of repetitions, switch sides.

4. Bodyweight squats

man performing bodyweight squats on a track

Bodyweight squats | Source: iStock

Now that you’ve opened up your hips, it’s time to move on to getting the rest of your body ready for a workout. If you plan on doing squats as part of your routine, bodyweight squats are the perfect way to get primed for the exercise. You’ll get your body used to the movement and perfect your form, which minimizes the chance of hurting yourself once you add weight.

Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your arms either extended straight out in front of you or lightly resting behind your head. Keeping your back flat and your chest pointed out, bend your knees and sit back into a squat until your knees reach a 90-degree angle. Press back up, then repeat the move. You can see a great demonstration over at Bodybuilding.com.

5. Lateral lunge

shirtless man lunges to the side with hands on the floor

Lateral lunges | Source: iStock

Anyone who’s ever suffered a groin injury can tell you it’s no picnic. These painful pulls happens when the adductors, the small muscles that run along the upper-inside portion of your thighs, are strained during quick movements or over-stretching. One review published in Sports Health explained groin strains can easily become a recurring issue, so prevention is crucial.

Thankfully, a simple variation on a lunge can help strengthen these muscles. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart as you would for a normal lunge. Step your right leg out to the side as you lunge, keeping your left leg straight. As you sit down into the lunge, your right knee should be directly above your right ankle. Step back to the starting position, then repeat for your desired number of repetitions before switching sides.

6. High-knee skips

athlete warms up for exercise with high-knee skips

High-knee skips | Source: iStock

This last exercise is all about getting your body moving and your heart pumping. Men’s Health recommended high-knee skips because they help boost coordination and and build power. This exercise also scores points for being relatively easy to perform.

Beginning from a standing position, bend your right knee as you skip and pull your knee as high toward the sky as possible. As your right knee comes up, simultaneously swing your left arm in front and your right arm back, keeping both elbows at a 90-degree angles. As soon as you land, explosively repeat the move on the other side. According to the article, you can even do these skips in place.

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