Essential Warm Up Exercises
For You to Enjoy!

Don't forget the cool down exercises that will help you recover for your next workout.

Warm up exercises and cool down are often forgotten about. Big mistake! There is so much research now that these exercises can't be ignored.

It's a matter of preparation, as we'll see.

Sometimes you just need to be guided visually to see exactly how to perform each stretch from start to finish. If you want done-for-you stretching exercises, click here.

Want to feature on this site? Click here to submit your exercise pictures.

Warm up Exercises

A good warm up will prepare your body for activity, prevent injury and improve your performance. Look at it as an intro to your exercise. There are 3 main parts of your warm up:

  • Loosening Up Exercises
  • This is what I call "oiling the joints". Move your joints steadily, either up and down, side to side or circular movements (backwards and forwards) depending on which joint it is. This will circulate the fluid that will help them move freely.

    Which joints for warm up exercises?

    Toes, ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck, elbows, wrists and fingers.

    I recommend that order, but always do shoulders before neck. Repeat each movement 6 to 8 times before moving on to the next joint. You can spend longer on joints that will be specifically used in your exercise.

    Avoid Injury SideNote for warm up exercises

    Take it easy! Each movement should be smooth. Any jerky or sudden sharp movements at this stage can result in injury. This is NOT stretching. That will come later.

  • Pulse Raising Exercises
  • These will gradually raise your heart rate and warm your body. This will prepare your cardiovascular system for activity and warm your muscles up so that it is safe to stretch them.

    These warm up exercises should make you breathe faster, but NOT be out of breath. Examples are:

    (Less strenuous) Walking, jogging, sidestepping, shuffling, dodging, pivoting, low jumps, skipping (More strenuous).

    It's fun to be imaginative with these warm up exercises and adapt them to your sport or workout. For example you could throw and catch a ball whilst jogging. That will also prepare your hand-eye co-ordination, if your activity requires it.

    It's a good idea to do a combination of these warm up exercises, going from less strenuous and ending with more strenuous. This will ensure a gradual increase.

  • Warm Up Stretching
  • These static (i.e. no bouncing) stretches will gently lengthen your muscles to prepare them for further activity. This will help to prevent pulls, strains and other injuries.

    Stretches should only be done when your muscles are warm. Move into the stretch slowly, hold it still for 10 to 12 seconds and move out of the stretch slowly.

    Take the stretch to the point where you feel mild discomfort. There should be no feeling of pain. Try and relax whilst stretching, breathe as normal.

    It's best to focus on the muscle groups that you will mainly use in your activity. But I would suggest to spend at least the minimum time on all the stretches shown below.

    Click here for stretching exercises

    Cool Down Exercises

    A good cool down is done straight after your workout. It will prepare your body to recover from the stresses of your workout. It is vital after intense exercise to prevent dizziness and nausea.

    Look at it as a conclusion to your exercise. Depending on the intensity of your exercise, cool down should be between 5 to 10 minutes. There are 2 main parts of your cool down exercises:

  • Pulse Lowering Exercises
  • These are the same as the pulse raising exercises. But there should be a gradual decrease of intensity instead.

    I think the best cool down exercise is gentle swimming. If you have access to a pool then jump in straight after your workout. If not then make sure you keep warm during your pulse lowering exercises by wearing a tracksuit or fleece.

    Keep moving until your breathing and heart rate feel like they're back to normal.

  • Cool Down Stretching
  • These should also be static stretches. Stretching after your workout is important as it will prevent blood pooling in your muscles and help to maintain their flexibility.

    Your focus should be on the muscles used in your workout, especially your leg muscles as cramping is most common in this muscle group.

    Click here for stretching exercises

    Stretching Exercises

    For stretches that involve sitting or lying, please do them on soft ground such as grass, or an exercise mat if you're indoors. Click on each stretch to see instructions and videos of more stretches.

  • Calf Stretches..

  • Stand with your feet facing forward, shoulder width apart.
    Step your right foot back keeping it facing forward.
    Bend your left knee so its just above your toes.
    Lean forward and push against a wall for the best stretch, keeping heels on the floor.
    Feel the stretch at the back of your right leg.
    Repeat with your left foot back.

  • Quad Stretches..

  • Stand with your left arm raised to the side or holding on to a stable object for balance.
    Bend your right knee so your foot goes towards your bottom, keeping your left knee slightly bent.
    Hold on to your right foot with your right hand.
    Pull your heel towards your bottom, keeping your knees together.
    Feel the stretch at the front of your right thigh.
    Repeat with your left knee bent.

  • Hamstring Stretches..

  • Sit with your right leg straight and your left leg bent so the sole of your left foot is touching the inside of your right thigh.
    Keep your right foot pointing to the sky.
    Bending at the hips reach forward with your hands sliding down your right leg towards your foot.
    Feel the stretch at the back of your right thigh.
    Repeat with your left leg straight.

  • Groin Stretches..

  • Sit with your legs bent with heels together.
    Hold your ankles or feet with both hands.
    Keep your back straight and stomach in.
    Let your knees towards the floor.
    Feel the stretch on the inside of your thighs.

  • Lower Back Stretches..

  • Lie on your back and raise your knees to your chest.
    Hold them there with both your hands.
    Feel the stretch at the bottom of your back.

    Relax your legs down to the floor and take a few breaths.
    Put your right arm straight out to your side.
    Bend your right leg up and over your left leg, so your right knee is in line with your hips.
    Keeping your head straight, use your left hand to push your right knee down towards the floor.
    Feel the stretch at the bottom of your back and in to your bottom.
    Repeat with your left leg.

  • Side Stretches..

  • Stand with your left hand on your hip and your right arm above your head.
    Bend to the left without leaning forward or back.
    Feel the stretch on your right side.
    Repeat with your left arm.

  • Shoulder Stretches..

  • Take your right arm across your chest.
    Use your left wrist to push your right elbow towards your chest.
    Keep the rest of your body facing forward.
    Feel the stretch on your right shoulder.
    Repeat with your left arm.

  • Arm and Chest Stretch..

  • Put your right hand against a wall and turn your body to face the left.
    Your inner right elbow and shoulder should now be against the wall too.
    Feel the stretch in your right biceps and chest.
    Repeat with your left arm.

  • Triceps Stretch..

  • Bend your right elbow and reach your right hand behind your head down along your spine.
    Use your left hand to further push your right elbow down.
    Feel the stretch in your right triceps.
    Repeat with your left arm.

  • Neck Stretches..

  • Hold your head from behind with your thumbs pointing down.
    Push your head down so your chin touches your chest.
    Keep your back straight.
    Feel the stretch at the back of your neck.

    Stand with your body relaxed.
    Slowly bend your head to the left, so your left ear goes towards your left shoulder.
    Feel the stretch on the right of your neck.
    Slowly raise your head back up.
    Repeat to the right.

    If you want to learn more about stretching, check out The Stretching Handbook. A quick reference guide (A5 sized book), that you can whip out when you're stuck for stretching ideas. It's something I still turn to in my warm up exercises and cool down.

    Final Word

    I hope you find these stretches useful. Warm up exercises are vital to prevent injury.

    Once you're in the routine of doing warm up exercises then it'll become second nature.

    The cool down exercises are just as important.

    You may want to just get showered and changed after your workout and miss it out.

    But it's so important that you understand the need for it.

    Make your warm up exercises and cool down fun, you'll never skip them again.

    Go to The Exercise Directory from Warm Up Exercises.
    Return to Better Exercise Fitness For Life Home from Warm Up Exercises.

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