Static stretches—involving holding a position for at least 10 seconds—used to be a warm-up staple, but a recent research review concluded they’re not effective on their own for exercise prep, and can even slow muscle reaction times. (Save them for after your workout, when your muscles are ‘warm,’ and primed to loosen.)
Instead, warm up with dynamic stretches—moves that incorporate your range of motion and often mimic the movement patterns you’ll complete when you work out. You’ll boost your circulation, help prevent injuries, and increase your flexibility, so you can get more from your workout and even train harder. Here are five of my favorite dynamic warm-up options: Pick at least two to complete before your next training session.
Walk to Jog
How: Walk for 2 minutes, then jog for 2 minutes. Repeat.
Why: Quite simply, boosting your heart rate can increase blood flow to your muscles.
Knee to Elbow
How: Stand with your right hand behind your head, and then crunch your torso and arm diagonally to the left while simultaneously lifting your left knee toward your right elbow. Repeat on the other side and alternate for 20-30 total reps.
Why: Yes, you’ll look a little silly doing this one, but for good reason. You’re priming your core, which includes your entire trunk (from hips to shoulders) and your abs, which help support your spine. You’re also warming up your back while you’re at it, working spinal flexibility.
Jump Fake Rope
How: Just like it sounds: Pretend you’re bouncing over a rope for five minutes.
Why: You’ll rev your heart rate (and increase circulation), while prepping your knees, ankles, and shoulders for further activity. (I love this move, mainly, because I’m not good at actually jumping rope.)
How: Do your best Rocky imitation: Stand like a boxer, with your left foot slightly forward, knees slightly bent, and hands up protecting your face. With your left fist, punch forward and slightly to the right, then alternate—punching with your right fist, forward and slightly to the left. Focus on rotating your torso with every punch, and continue for one minute. Then switch feet, and repeat for an additional minute.
Why: You’ll engage your core (to help protect against back injuries) and warm up your shoulders and arms.
Lunge with a Twist
How: Stand with your fingers laced behind your head, elbows out to the sides, and step forward with your right leg. Drop your left knee down into a lunge while simultaneously twisting your upper body to the right. Return to standing and switch sides, alternating for 20 total reps.
Why: You’ll open your hip flexors and activate your glutes, quads, core, and spine.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.