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13 Best Warm-Up Exercises To Try Before Your Workout

Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director
By Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director
Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen.
Image by Andreas von Scheele
July 24, 2021

When you're trying to squeeze in a quick HIIT routine or speedy full-body strength workout, the last thing you probably want to do is tack on an extra five-minute warm-up. But just a few simple warm-up exercises can make a pretty big difference when it comes to your performance and recovery.

"Warming up before a workout is extremely important," says fitness instructor and trainer at bande Mindy Lai. "When your muscles are cold, they are harder to move. If you hop into a class with zero warm-up or stretch, chances are you'll walk out with an injury."

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Beyond injury prevention, easing in with a warm-up can activate your central nervous system and help prepare your body for movement.

Lai also adds that without an adequate warm-up "you won't get the most out of your workout, because you won't be able to move as limberly from the beginning of class." In other words, kicking things off with some dynamic movement can help support your mobility and range of motion.

While you may be tempted to do some static stretching beforehand, your best choice is opting for dynamic exercises, which get your muscles and joints moving.

Ready to give it a try? Pick four to five of the dynamic warm-up exercises below, demonstrated by Lai. Be sure to focus on whichever moves will best prepare your body for the workout ahead (think lower body, upper body, etc.). Not only will you physically feel better, but you'll also feel mentally ready to take on your routine!

1.

Shoulder rolls

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  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Slowly roll your shoulders up and back, then to the front again, creating circles.
  3. Continue for 15 seconds. Reverse the movement and continue for 15 seconds.
2.

Arm swings

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  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Swing your arms in front of your body, then bring them backward behind your body.
  3. Continue swinging back and forth for 30 seconds.
3.

Head circles

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  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Roll your head in slow circles, clockwise.
  3. Continue for 15 seconds, then go counterclockwise for 15 seconds.
4.

Shoulder stretch

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  1. Start standing with your legs apart, in a wide squat position. Place your hands on your thighs.
  2. Bend your knees slightly, then twist your body to one side, pressing your hands into your thighs to enhance the stretch. Switch and repeat on the opposite side.
  3. Slowly move back and forth for 30 seconds.
5.

Crawl out

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  1. Start by standing at the edge of your mat.
  2. Slowly bend your body forward, until your hands reach the mat.
  3. Walk your hands out into a high-plank position. Hold for a moment.
  4. Walk your hands back toward your feet, and slowly roll back up to standing.
  5. Continue for 30 seconds.
6.

World's greatest stretch

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  1. From a high-plank position, step your right foot to the side of your left hand.
  2. Press your left hand into the ground and bring your right hand overhead. Twist your body to the right side, and bring your gaze to the lifted fingertips.
  3. Reverse the movement, and repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds.
7.

Lunges

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  1. Start standing at the edge of your mat.
  2. Take a big step forward with your right leg, then slowly bend both knees and lower down, until both knees are at 90-degree angles.
  3. Press through your front foot to return to start.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
8.

Lateral lunges

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  1. Begin standing with your hands on your hips or in front of your chest.
  2. Take a big step to the left, bending the left knee and straightening out the right.
  3. Lower the hips down like you would in a squat.
  4. Rise back up, stepping the left foot back to center, squeezing the glutes, and keeping your chest lifted.
  5. Continue for 30 seconds.
9.

Squats

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  1. Begin standing with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hinge at the hips and send them back, lowering until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  3. Press through your heels and engage your glutes to return back to a starting position.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds.
10.

Single-leg knee hug

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  1. Lie down on your mat.
  2. Lift your shoulders off the mat, and hover your feet in the air.
  3. Bring your right knee to your chest, and hug it toward your body with your hands.
  4. Reverse the movement, and repeat with your left knee.
  5. Continue for 30 seconds.
11.

High plank

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  1. Place your hands on the ground, stacking shoulders over wrists.
  2. Extend your legs outward, engage your core, and lift your body up into a high-plank position.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.
12.

Mountain climbers

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  1. Start in a plank pose, with shoulders over wrists.
  2. Pull your waist in, drag shoulder blades down the back, and engage the core.
  3. Fire up the belly by pulling one knee in, and then send it back. As soon your toe touches the floor, alternate and send the other knee toward the chest and back again. That's one rep.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds.
13.

Jumping jacks

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  1. Start in a standing position with your hands and feet at your sides.
  2. Jump your feet out to the sides while simultaneously sweeping your hands overhead.
  3. Reverse the movement. Continue for 30 seconds.
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Kristine Thomason
Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director

Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen. Kristine is a New York University graduate with a degree in journalism and psychology, and also a NASM-certified personal trainer. She has spent her editorial career focused on health and well-being, and formerly worked for Women’s Health and Health. Her byline has also appeared in Men’s Health, Greatist, Refinery29, HGTV, and more. In her current role she oversees, edits, and writes for the health, food, and movement sections of mindbodygreen.