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What Is The Best Warm Up Routine Before A Workout?

By Amanda Reck / July 27, 2017

With a busy schedule, sometimes warming up can seem like the last thing you want to do before getting into the meat of your workout. You may think that without it, you’ll be done faster and can move on to other things.

However, there are a several good reasons why it definitely pays off. You warm your muscles, which then contract and relax more efficiently, improving your speed and strength. While it’s tough to prove injury prevention, the chances are if you are warmed up, you will be less likely to get injured.

You reduce the risk of strains and pulls by elevating body temperature, and lower the stress on your heart by dilating your blood vessels. Increasing your blood temp early in the game means more oxygen is available to your muscles, which can improve endurance. Efficient cooling, range of motion, and mental focus are also all improved during the warm-up.1

So you can reap the benefits of the warm up without wasting time figuring out what you want to do, we asked our experts what their favorite warm up routine is before doing a full body strength workout to ensure total benefit.

Best Warm Up Routine #1

The goal of a warm up routine is to increase body temperature, maximize range of motion, and prepare the mind and body for the workout ahead. With this in mind, I think the ideal routine would have 3 components and last around 10-15 minutes and are customized to your strengths & weaknesses:

  1. Myofascial Release (aka Self-Massage / SMR – IT band, quads, glutes, calves, upper back, lats, chest)
  2. Dynamic Stretching (lunges in various planes, hip opening stretches etc.)
  3. Muscle Activation (to activate the glutes and abs muscles like hip thrusts, planks etc.)

Given we don’t live in an ideal world, just dynamic stretching with a little muscle activation blended in can likely achieve probably 70% of the benefits of a longer warm up in about 3-5 minutes. I recommend dynamic stretching before any and all exercise activities. One last thing to mention, a few minutes of low level cardio (jumping rope, jogging etc.) may help you warm up your muscles and get a sweat if the dynamic stretching and muscle activation exercises do not give you a sweat.

Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT

Best Warm Up Routine #2

I usually start my total body strength workouts with a dynamic stretching sequence followed by a couple circuits of planks, glute bridges, and hip flexor stretches. Then I’ll do side steps with a resistance band and a crawling exercise. I finish my warm-up with a couple Turkish Get-Ups on each side. I prep for my biggest lifts with some lighters sets, and then I’m good to go!

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Dynamic Stretching
  2. Circuits of Planks, Glute Bridges, & Hip Flexors Stretches
  3. Side Steps With Resistance Band & Crawling Exercise
  4. Turkish Get-Ups
  5. Warm Up Sets Of First Couple Of Exercises

Kristin Rooke

Best Warm Up Routine #3

For most people, I think foam rolling/SMR on the IT Band, rectus femoris (outside of quad – front thigh) is a great start. If you have access to a Rad roller, I would use that [on the middle/upper back] before the workout as well. Following the foam rolling up with some hamstring and hip flexor stretches can help to loosen the lower body. Band windmills and band pull-aparts can help to loosen up the shoulders. After that, doing one or two bodyweight or light sets of the exercise you will be doing can round off the warm-up routine.

Here’s a summary:

  1. Foam Roll IT Band & Quad + Rad Roller For Upper Back
  2. Hamstring & Hip Flexor Stretches
  3. Band Windmills & Band Pull Aparts
  4. Body weight exercises that mimic workout

John Levya, CSCS, CPT

Best Warm Up Routine #4

The best warm-up routine before a full-body strength training workout is one that focuses on three things: joint mobility, joint stability, and muscle activation. The exercises you choose should also slightly increase your body temperature and allow you to move in many different ways (you know…since most of us sit all day) to prepare you for exercise.

I recommend starting your warm-up with both static and dynamic mobility exercises that target your hip flexors, quads, adductors (inner thighs), and pecs. Focus on your weakest links!

Then, move onto stability/activation exercises to warm-up those muscles you don’t rely on when you’re sitting….mainly your butt. Glute bridges, planks, and low-level bodyweight exercises such as pushups, squats, and lunges work well.

Finally, get up and move! Crawl, skip, hop jump, lunge, and move in as many ways as possible. As humans we were meant to move, and like anything else in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it!

Here’s a summary:

  1. SMR & Dynamic Stretching (hip flexors, quads, adductors, and pecs)
  2. Activation Exercises (glute bridges, planks, push ups, squats, and lunges)
  3. Move! (crawl, skip, hop, jump, lunge, move in as many ways as possible)

Stephen Bergeron, CSCS, CPT

Best Warm Up Routine #5

The best full-body warm-up is one that is specific to you, but should definitely accomplish a few of these important things:

  1. Increase body temperature by a few degrees (break a sweat with light cardio)
  2. Improve joint mobility and increase secretion of synovial fluid (through dynamic stretching or mobility drills)
  3. Switch the central nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic (through deep breathing)
  4. Reduce tone of chronic tight muscles (SMR, foam rolling, specific stretches, etc)
  5. Activate muscles that tend to be weak (the common ones: glutes, abs, shoulder stabilizers, etc)
  6. Get the body as neutral and symmetrical as possible (drill neutral spine, neck, pelvis, address side to side asymmetries)

In a customized strength training program, a person’s warm-up routine would be individualized to fit their specific struggles (for example: Sally’s stressful desk job causes her to hold her breath and her hips to get tight, so her emphasis is first on calming her body and mind with breathing exercises, giving her hips some extra love, then activating her abdominals). Your best warm-up hit those 6 warm-up goals and keeps your individual needs in mind.

Monika Volkmar, Owner/Founder of The Dance Training Project

What’s your favorite warm up routine?


  • Dave says:

    It would be nice to post an article with a video showing the essential foam rolling exercises to do as a warm up.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Dave - That's a great point and an area that is severely lacking on the site and in all the videos I've done. I will definitely address foam rolling in a video, so stay tuned.

  • Kathleen says:

    I'd like to see the 'essential' foam rolling exercises too :-). I can believe that the SMR is a very valuable pain management, posture, and flexibility routine for nearly everyone.

    BTW, last night the TV news reported that study results had just been released saying that as little as 5 minutes of jogging per day could reduce cardiovascular ... heart disease and stroke ... risks as much as 40% (and that even just moving around helps). The AARP has a blurb on their web site regarding reducing diabetes risk stating "But moving around for two minutes every half hour boosts your metabolism enough to lower glucose. "

    I have to conclude that simply doing this "warm up" routine, (breaking a sweat) without always having to follow up with weight training, could accomplish A LOT.

    It is alarming the rate at which the sedentary time (ie screen time!) is taking over our lives. IMO, youth can tolerate the inactivity better than older people ... be less aware of the toll it takes. However, it may be equally or more costly to our youth in the long run.