A key part of doing any physical activity successfully is warming up your body to prepare it for movement.

Warming up your muscles is especially important for stretching.  When muscles are cold, they can easily be torn or hurt.

By warming them up you make them softer and more pliant.

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Additionally, warming up forewarns your nervous system that you are going to stretch, so that the nerves are not shocked by work out.  When your nervous system is prepared, the nerves can also relax during stretching to allow you a deeper stretch.

I’m well aware that Warming Up suffers by being regarded as the least interesting element of a comprehensive workout, so here are some ideas for efficient and fun warm-ups, which will prepare your body for stretching, while simultaneously building your strength and stability.

Cardio:

Cardio is the best way to warm the entire body up quickly, and to say “wake up and good morning world!”  This set should be short, five minutes is usually enough to raise the heart beat and get blood flowing to all parts of the body.  Skipping rope, doing jumping jacks and jogging are all good warm up cardio exercises as they incorporate the entire body and use all the joints.

You can make these activities more interesting by pairing them or by mixing them up.  For example, if you don’t particularly like jumping jacks, you can make them more manageable by doing a Jumping Jack Shuttle Run.  Begin at one end of the room, do 10 jumping jacks, run to the opposite end of the room, do 9 jumping jacks.  Then return to the first end of the room and do 8 jumping jacks.  Continue reducing the number of jumping jacks at the end of each jog until you have none left. If you choose to run, challenge yourself by lifting your knees as high as possible in front of you on one run, then kick your butt with your heels on the next lap.  Try running backwards for a lap.  All of these will help you use more muscles and improve your coordination and timing.

After doing a short cardio set, you are ready to start warming up for flexibility training.  Here are several different exercises to begin.

Squat to Toe Touches:

Place your feet hip-with apart, toes facing forward.  Squat down, bringing your butt below your knees.  Keep your arms extended in front of you.  Stand up, straightening the knees.  Keeping your knees straight, bend down and touch the floor three times, with a slight bounce each touch.  See if you can bring your hands closer to your feet each time.

Bear Walks:

Stand with feet apart, slightly wider than your hip-with. Hinge at the waist and place the palms of your hands on the floor.  Walk across the floor, using both your hands and feet to propel you forward.  Move opposite hands and feet.

Walking Front Kicks:

Stand tall, take a step forward with the right foot, kick the left foot forward and up towards your head. Bring the left foot down and step forward with the left.  Kick the right foot.  Continue the pattern until you have crossed the floor.

Walking Side Kicks:

Stand tall, take a step forward with your right foot, pivot 90-degrees to the right, kick the left foot to the side, trying to reach the foot behind your left shoulder.  Bring the left foot down, and return to facing forward.  Step the left foot forward.  Turn 90-degrees to the left.  Kick the right foot to the side, trying to bring the right leg behind the right shoulder. Bring the right leg down and return to forward.  Continue the pattern until you’ve crossed the floor.

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Inchworm Crawls:

Stand tall, feet hip-width distance apart, and hinge at the waist, bring your palms to the ground.  Walk your hands forward until you reach a plank position.  Hold the position for 5 seconds.  Walk your feet forward, until you are again hinged at the waist, with hands and feet close.  Repeat until you cross the floor.

Crab walks:

Sit on the ground, with feet flat, knees bent upwards at a 90-degree angle.  Place your hands behind you, so your palms are directly beneath your shoulders.  Push your hips upwards so you have straight line between your knees and your shoulders.  Keeping your body straight, and your hips raised, walk forward by moving your opposite hand and foot forward.

Walking Lunges:

Step forward.  Bend the front leg to a 90-degree angle, while controlling the bend in the back leg, so the knee lightly touches the floor.  Push forward to standing.  Repeat with the other leg in front.  Extend the opposite arm as the leg in forward to help maintain the balance.

One you have finished these exercises, you muscles and your joints will both be warm.  You can now do any conditioning or strength building exercises safely without worrying about tearing or straining muscles. These are also good warm ups before playing sports and will help prevent injuries like twisted or sprained ankles, knees or writs.  Once you have completed your workout, be sure to stretch out fully, doing passive as well as active stretching to return length to the muscles.

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