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The Best Warm-Up Exercises To Do Before Lifting, According To Experts

by Kristin Bugden - November 17, 2022

If you’re a seasoned weight lifter, or just looking to get started, one thing is for certain: taking the time to properly prepare your muscles before engaging in a lifting session is a must. Not only will this help prevent short-term injury, but can also help promote healthier long-term muscle growth. Keep reading for a few pre-lift moves to add to your warm-up rotation.

So, what’s the point of a warmup, anyway? Shannon Flanagan, certified personal trainer, breaks it down for us. “Spending the first 10-15 minutes of your workout warming up is important in order to prepare your body for the movements that are about to follow,” she says. “Goals include improving movement competency and capacity, raising your core body temp and getting your central nervous system excited.” 

Single Leg Glute Lifts

One of Flanagan’s go-to warm-up moves is the single-leg glute lift, which helps improve hip mobility and develop strength in the glutes.

How to do it: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your right leg off the floor so that it’s straight up in the air with your foot flexed. Push through the heel of the left foot still on the floor to lift your hips as far as you can (be sure to keep your back straight and core engaged). Pause at the top and squeeze your glutes for one to two seconds. Lower back down to starting position. Complete all desired reps and then switch legs.

Cat-Cow Stretch 

Flanagan shares that bodies need breath, mobility and flexibility before strength training. Our second exercise to help do just that is the cat-cow stretch which helps bring awareness to each part of your spine and warm-up the muscles in your back and shoulders. You can check out her insta for more warm-up inspohere.

How to do it: Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists and hips over your knees. For cat pose, you’ll take a deep inhale, and on the exhale, arch your spine and drop your head and pelvis downward. On the next inhale, curve your lower back while lifting your head and chest toward the ceiling. This is cow pose. Repeat 5-10 times or for your desired amount of reps.

Jumping Jacks

Our next go-to exercise before lifting weights is jumping jacks. Michelle Porter, NASM personal trainer withRightFit Personal Training, explains that jumping jacks are a simple, yet effective movement that elevates your heart rate, increases circulation to your arms and legs and builds body heat to prepare you for your workout. 

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Inhale, jump your feet wider than hip-width apart while reaching your hands together overhead. Exhale and jump back to starting position. Repeat until your target amount of reps is complete.

Inchworm Walkouts To Plank Shoulder Tap

As a trainer and a yoga instructor, Porter tells Lively this is her favorite dynamic warm-up movement for both mind-body modalities. “Inchworm walkouts stretch your entire posterior chain including your hamstrings, glutes, calves and back while also elevating your heart rate,” she says, adding that although this movement is very low impact, the up and down movement is a “sneaky way to increase your blood pressure and heat up your body.”

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet together and hands by your hips. Inhale as you reach your hands overhead, then exhale as you forward fold and place your hands on the ground. Walk your hands out into a plank position and hold. Keeping your left hand on the ground in plank position, bring your right hand across your body to tap your left shoulder. Repeat on the other side (this time your right hand will remain firmly on the ground in plank position while you bring your left arm across your body to tap your right shoulder). Exhale as you walk your hands back to your feet (forward fold) and inhale as you return to standing position. Repeat until target amount of reps is complete.

Bodyweight Squats

Porter highlights squats as yet another excellent warm-up exercise that activate a whole range of muscle groups including glutes, quads, hip muscles and even your core. 

How to do it: Stand with your feet hip distance apart with your hands by your sides and toes facing forward. Inhale, drive your knees slightly open, push your hips back and keep your heels planted while you descend into the squat position (as if about to sit in an invisible chair). Be sure to keep your chest up and shoulders back while lowering your body. Exhale and press through your heels as you power back up to your starting standing position and feel the back of your legs fire up. Repeat until your target amount of reps is complete.

Reverse Lunge With a Torso Twist 

This movement is a dynamic stretch that activates your upper body, lower body and core while layering in a coordination and stability challenge. “The stretch component of the movement helps to prepare our muscles for a strength load and the stability challenge helps to strengthen our joints and the surrounding stabilizer muscles which is essential for those lifting sessions,” explains Porter.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet side by side and hands by your hips. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest with your elbows out wide. Inhale then exhale while stepping your left foot back and bend both knees to create a 90 degree angle in each leg (your back knee will hover about an inch or two off the ground with your front thigh parallel to ground). Squeeze your inner thighs for balance, and with your hands still clasped, torso twist to the right as you hold the lunge. Inhale and twist back to center while simultaneously stepping your left foot forward to come back to your starting neutral stand position. Repeat on the other side (this time you’ll step your right foot back for your reverse lunge and torso twist to the left). Repeat both sides until your target amount of reps are complete.

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