How to Warm Up Properly: The 12 Best Warm-Up Exercises To Prevent Injury

Every day I watch people wander into a gym, immediately lie down on a bench, and start cranking out their workout with a heavy weight within seconds.

Cake Weight Loss

This makes me weep for humanity.

These people are just WAITING to get injured. They’re essentially playing with dynamite (also not recommended).

Playing with dynamite is not recommended

Today, you’re gonna learn all about the importance of warming up BEFORE every workout. On top of that, I’ll even teach you HOW to warm up.

In this article we’ll cover the following (click to go to that section?):

Stretch before working out? No. Warm up instead.
Beginner Dynamic Warm-up Exercises and Video
Advanced Dynamic Warm-up Exercises and Video
12 Quick Dynamic Warm Up Exercises to Prevent Injury

Before we jump in…

If you have questions about how to warm up, I bet you have a lot of other questions about how to train correctly! Wouldn’t it be cool if you had a tiny Yoda who travels with you anywhere in the world to answer questions on warming up, lifting correctly, and proper nutrition?

If so, check out uber popular 1-on-1 Coaching Program!

We pair you with your own Nerd Fitness Coach who will help you avoid newbie mistakes like not warming up correctly. Our certified instructors help busy people like you lose weight, gain muscle, and level up their lives, and we’d love to have you if you’re interested!

Click on the image below to learn more:

Should I stretch Before A Workout? No. Warm Up Instead

Above all else, the most important thing you can do when working out is warming up properly.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Come on. Surely it’s not the MOST important thing…”

To which I’d reply: “First, don’t call me Shirley. Secondly, if you don’t have enough time to warm up, then you don’t have enough time to work out.”

Boom!

So WHY is it so important? 

Think of your muscles like rubber bands.

If you spend all day sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard, those rubber bands have gone almost completely unused. Then, if you go to a gym and immediately start lifting heavy weights or sprinting really fast, those cold, unstretched rubber bands get pulled apart very quickly and can snapped or pulled out of shape.

#Fail.

So, what about just regular, static stretching before working out? 

Nope. As we point out in “Should you stretch before or after your workout?“:

A consolidation of studies showed there aren’t many benefits to static stretching before workouts. For starters, static stretching will not result in the reduction of chance of injury, for starters. Also, static stretching can actually decrease your potential for strength gains and performance.”

However, dynamic warm-ups – what you’ll learn in this article – are AWESOME for prepping you to get ready to strength train:

Think of it like a pregaming for your muscles – except replace “alcohol” with “awesome.” By jumping around and getting your muscles loose, active, warm, and ready for action, you are putting your muscles through their full range of motion and getting them ready to start handling heavier loads (strength training).

As pointed out in this  study, “warming up” can also help reduce soreness after a workout.

On top of that, doing a dynamic warm-up can help activate your central nervous system, priming your muscles for a great workout that produces your best effort.

Add “improved blood circulation” to the list of benefits of warming up, which will help you perform well in each exercise.

Need another reason? When your body is properly warmed up, your muscles and joints are ready for maximum flexibility, which means you can perform each exercise with PROPER form (like deep barbell squats, for example) that maximize results and minimize the risk of injury.

So, whether you are running or strength training…a proper warm-up is probably the most important 5-10 minutes of your day. 

Still with me? 

Good. Let’s take you through two warm-up routines.

Beginner Dynamic Warm Up Video And Exercises

The above video comes from Senior Female Coach Staci Ardison, whose success story is here (and she’s now a lead trainer in our NF Coaching Program)

Don’t overthink this: Your goal is to elevate your heart rate, put your muscles and joints through their range of motion to warm them up and make sure everything is functioning properly, and preparing your body to strength train!

This will get you prepped for a day of getting stronger.

If you read the above paragraph and thought: “Yes I am doing strength training, please tell me more Steve! More!”

Firstly, thanks for saying please – your mom taught you well.

Next: we created a guide that answers all of the questions you might have about strength training, weight training, training in a gym, how much weight to lift, and how much to warm up with.

You’re a nice person, so I’ll send it to you fo free! Simply join our Rebellion by signing up in the box below and I’ll send you Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know so you can train worry free starting today!

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

I identify as a:

Woman

Man

Advanced Dynamic Warm Up And Video

Here is A Warm-up Circuit you can do anywhere:

Jump rope: 2-3 minutes (optional)

Jumping jacks: 50 reps(pull your shoulder blades back, extend arms and really focus on the movement)
Bodyweight Squats: 20 reps
Lunges: 5 reps each leg
Hip extensions: 10 reps
Hip rotations: 10 reps each leg (like you’re stepping over a fence)
Forward leg swings: 10 reps each leg.
Side leg swings: 10 reps each leg
Push-ups: 10-20 reps
Spider-man steps: 5 each leg

This particular warm-up might be more difficult than your actual workout, especially if you’re following something like The Beginner Bodyweight Workout.

Yes, there is a lot of work put on your hips, butt, legs, and core. As nerds/desk jockeys, these tend to be the muscles that are the tighest and least active, and thus most susceptible to an injury.

If your arms and chest are particularly tight or sore, you can throw two more movements as well: 

Arm swings (holding your arms straight out to the side, and then swing them and cross them in front of your chest)
Shoulder rotations (holding your arms straight out to the side, and move your arms in a circular motion, making bigger circles each time)

Here’s another advanced dynamic warm up video from my coach, Anthony, which also covers a lot of Mobility:

When it comes time for your workout, if you are doing heavy strength training (with barbells or dumbbells), make sure you do some warm-up sets before jumping into the weight you’ll be training with for EACH EXERCISE.
Always start with a set using just the bar to work on your form and get your body used to the movement.

Then, do a few sets of just a few reps with increasing weight (but won’t tire you out) and THEN start your workout.

12 Best Dynamic Warm Up Exercises To Prevent

This LEGO man warms up so he doesn't get injured during exercise

These are our favorite quick warm up exercises that can help you prevent an injury during your workout! 

Marching in place while swinging your arms.
Jumping jacks or walking jacks
Arm circles and shoulder shrugs.
Marching with high knees.
Swinging toe touches.
Leg swings (forward and side to side).
Hip rotations (like stepping over a fence)
Hip circles (like you’re hula hooping)
Punches and kicks.
Bodyweight squats.
Lunges.
Hip extensions.

Get into the habit of doing these exercises before doing any workout. They’ll help keep you mobile and limber and injury free. If you’re not sure how to do any of these movements, watch the videos for them below.

MARCHING IN PLACE WHILE SWINGING ARMS:

WALKING JACKS (If You Can’t Do Jumping Jacks)

SWINGING TOE TOUCHES:

HIP ROTATIONS

LEG SWINGS (FORWARD AND SIDE)

BACK LUNGE

HIP CIRCLES

HIP RAISES

To answer your first few questions…

“Steve, I can’t do jumping jacks/I live on the second floor.” 

That’s okay – the reason I love jumping jacks is that they work out all four of your limbs at once and get you bouncing around.

Instead, channel your inner Chuck Norris and do punches and kicks with each leg. I don’t care if you can’t kick higher than your shins and your punch wouldn’t kill a fly…just get those limbs flailing and warmed up!

Also, watch our video for “walking jacks” – just don’t knock any expensive vases off your shelves 🙂

“Um, your warm-up is tougher than my actual workout!” 

The dynamic warm-up above is designed for people who are doing serious training. If you are doing heavy deadlifts and squats and overhead presses, a proper warm-up could keep you out of a career-ending injury. However, if you are just getting started with exercise and you’re only doing bodyweight exercises, obviously 20 real push-ups during your workout isn’t possible…

THAT’S OKAY. Think of the above as the warm-up you aspire to complete. In the meantime, do the best you can. Let’s say:

Jump rope for 30 seconds
Leg swings and arm circles: 20 reps
Squats: 10 reps
Lunges: 5 each leg
Eelevated push-ups wall push-ups: 5 reps

Follow the rest of the routine as planned if possible.

In this routine, your warm-up will act as part of your workout, as you’ll be doing the same functional movements.

Do the BEST you can, keep track of your results for your warm up too, and improve with each workout. With enough consistency and persistency (not a word, but rhymed better and sounded way better than persistence), you’ll be busting out the full warm-up routine before kicking ass at your actual workout!

Warm Up Properly And Avoid Injury!

Hopefully, this is a post you bookmark, as it’s probably one of the more important ones I’ve ever written.

If you want to stay injury free, put your body through a dynamic warm-up before you start your exercise.

What other questions can I answer for you about warming up properly?

I’m here to help!

-Steve

PS: If you are somebody that wants to follow a program that is tailor-made for their life and situation and goals, check out our popular 1-on-1 Coaching program. You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who will get to know you better than you know yourself, answer any and all fitness questions you have, and program your workouts and nutrition for you.

PPS: What should you do after your workout? Stretch!

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All photo sources can be found right here.[1]

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

Hook, Resolutions, fourbrickstall Scenes from an empty lot in Brooklyn, vol 1. HappytrooperSunday, Decathlon.

Read more: nerdfitness.com

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