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10 Best Warm-Up Exercises To Help You Make The Most Of Every Workout

They’re worth the extra five minutes.

Pink, Shoulder, Arm, Joint, Standing, Leg, Lunge, Stretching, Physical fitness, Muscle,
Kathryn Wirsing

Warming up before a workout can feel...well, boring. And if you're short on time, forget about it. But doing a couple of low-key exercises before the main event can actually make a huge difference in your fitness performance.

The Benefits Of Warming Up Pre-Workout

"Warming up prior to your cardio or strength training session is essential for preventing injury," says Janeil Mason, a head trainer at Brrrn in New York, who also has an MS in exercise physiology. "A proper warm up also prepares your nervous system and muscles to perform optimally in your workout."

Moving through a few pre-workout stretches can even give your brain a boost. "It's going to help to prime not only the muscles and joints into that position," adds Dr. Jen Fraboni, a physical therapist. "but it's also going to help to prime the brain to understand what movement patterns they're going into." Talk about a win-win.

How To Warm Up Properly

Just touching your toes might not do the trick. Fraboni recommends dynamic stretches, or moving stretches, to get your muscles ready for peak performance. "We know that from studies, just static stretching can sometimes inhibit the muscle activity," she says. "We don't want to inhibit what we're about to do—we want to make the body more excited, more stimulated."

She also says it's a good idea to know your limits and to think about your personal range of motion while you warm up. You don't want to overdo it by pushing your body into a position it's not ready for (ouch!). "Moving into slow, controlled, active moments is better," Fraboni explains.

Convinced? Choose four to five of Mason's moves below, then complete each for 30 to 60 seconds. They work great no matter what kind of workout is on the agenda, from jumping rope to Pilates. Just focus on the moves that will best serve your workout (lower body, upper body, etc.), Fraboni says. Now, who's ready to heat things up?

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1
Arm Reach

How to: Begin in a standing position, with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Pivot on your right foot and swing your right arm across your chest. Twist your torso and upper body in the same direction. Immediately repeat with the other arm. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

2
Side Reach

How to: Begin in a standing position, with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Lean your body to the right side, bending your right knee slightly. At the same time, stretch your left arm to the sky at a diagonal, in line with the rest of your body. Stretch your left leg long. Immediately repeat on the opposite side. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

3
Hip Rotations

How to: Start in a standing position, with feet wider than hip-width apart. Bend your arms, and place your hands behind your head. Bend your knee as you lift one leg up. Circle that leg across your body, up toward your chest, then back down to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

4
Knees Lift

How to: Start in a standing position, with feet wider than hip-width apart. Bend your arms, placing your hands behind your head. Lift one leg up toward your body, bending your knee as you do, as if you were trying to touch your rip cage with your knee. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

5
Lateral Lunge With Balance

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands at your side. Take a big step to the right, then push your hips back, bending your right knee and lowering your body until your right knee is bent 90 degrees. Push back to an upright position, as you lift your knee and pull it into your chest with your arms. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds on the right side, then switch to the left.

6
Lateral Lunge With Reach

How to: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, hands at your side. With your right hand, reach down toward your foot, lowering your body until your left knee is bent 90 degrees. Immediately repeat on the other side. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

7
Squat To Raised Heel

How to: Stand with your heels wider then shoulder-distance apart, then turn your toes open slightly. Bend your knees, reach your hips back, and lower down into a squat. Drop your arms down in between your legs. Then, drive in into your heels to stand up, as you circle your arms out to the side. At the top, lift your arms straight up and lift onto your toes. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

8
Squat With Reach

How to: Stand with your heels wider then shoulder-distance apart, then turn your toes open slightly. Bend your knees, reach your hips back, and lower down into a squat. Drop your arms down in between your legs. Then, drive in into your heels to stand up, as you lift your arms straight upward. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

9
Plank Walk Out

How to: Start in a standing position. Bend down until your hands touch the ground. Slowly walk your hands forward until you get into a plank position. Pause for a second, then walk your hands back toward your feet. Return to standing. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

10
Jumping Jack

How to: Stand with your feet hip distance apart, with your arms at your sides. Then, simultaneously raise your arms out to the sides and over your head, and jump your feet out so they're slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.

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