Not all warm-ups are created equal.
Somewhere between lacing up your sneaks and starting your first set of squats, you face the most important decision of your workout: Warm up, or not? There’s a good chance you just skip it. After all, you can barely carve out a 30-minute workout window. Who wants to waste one valuable calorie-torching minute on tedious knee hugs and neck rolls?
But the short-term investment pays off big-time if you do it right. “The best way to warm up is with dynamic stretching,” says Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University in Baltimore. This stretches a muscle at its full range of motion (a body-weight lunge is a great example).
Dynamic stretching increases flexibility, improves blood flow, and decreases your risk of injury and your recovery time. Translation: Your workout will feel easier, and you’ll see faster results. This three-part dynamic warm-up from Tumminello gets your heart rate up, your muscles prepped, and your body seriously ready to turn heads.
1. Turn It On: Nervous System Activation (Moves 1-3)
Even if your brain is saying “Bring it!” your muscles aren’t ready to work when you first hit the gym. Your central nervous system, which controls movement and activity, is basically in “power save” mode (blame it on a day at the desk or hours in front of the TV). So before you jump into a workout, your brain needs to signal your body that it’s time for quick, explosive activity. These moves kick your nervous system into high gear by calling your coordination into action while raising your heart rate and body temperature. The result: Your muscles respond more effectively during your workout.
2. Up the Ante: Muscle Engagement (Moves 4-6)
Now that you’ve got your heart pumping, this phase will turn on weak and underutilized muscles: glutes, abdominals, hip flexors, and lower and upper back muscles. These “core muscles” are responsible for maintaining stability and control in your joints while you move. Forgetting to activate these muscles raises your risk of injury.
3. Push Further: Dynamic Mobility (Moves 7-9)
For the finale, you’ll increase the range of motion at your joints, while improving the flexibility in your large muscle groups from head to toe. And that’s a big deal: When your mobility is compromised by stiff muscles, you spend more energy during your workout fighting against your body’s limitations, rather than burning calories.
move 1 – jumping jacks
Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides (a). As you raise your arms above your head, jump up just enough to spread your feet wide (b). Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement. Continue for a total of 10 to 15 reps.
move 2 – crossover jumping jacks
Stand with your feet more than hip-width apart and your arms straight out to your sides at shoulder level (a). Simultaneously cross your arms in front of your chest and jump up just enough to cross your right leg in front of your left (b). Without pausing, quickly reverse the motion and return to the starting position. Repeat, crossing your left leg in front of your right. Continue alternating feet for a total of 10 to 15 reps.
move 3 – tight core rotations
Stand with your feet more than hip-width apart and your arms extended in front of you, palms together (a). Keeping your hips square and your core engaged, rotate your upper body to the right so your arms are in line with your right shoulder (b). That’s one rep. Quickly reverse, twisting all the way to the left so your arms are in line with your left shoulder. Continue alternating as fast as you can for 30 to 40 reps.
move 4 – bent-over row with l-raise
Bending at your hips, lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor, arms hanging from your shoulders (a). Raise your arms out to shoulder height, bending your elbows 90 degrees (b). Without moving your elbows, rotate your forearms up as far as you can (c). Reverse the motion to return to start. That’s one rep. Do 12 to 14.
move 5 – super dog
Kneel and place your elbows on the floor, bent 90 degrees. Slide your left hand forward and stretch your right leg behind you until both are straight (a). Raise your left arm and right leg as high as you can, forming a straight line from your fingertips to your toes (b). Hold for two seconds, then return to start. That’s one rep. Do 12 to 14 on each side.
move 6 – slow motion mountain climber
Start at the top of a pushup (a). Keeping your abs braced, pick up your right foot and slowly bring your knee toward your right shoulder (b). Hold for two seconds, then return to start. Alternate legs until you’ve done 12 to 14 reps (six or seven per leg).
move 7 – arm crossover
Lie on your left side, with your right knee bent 90 degrees. Straighten both arms in front of you, palms facing each other (a). Keeping your left arm and both legs in position, rotate your torso to the right, until your right hand and upper back are flat on the floor (b). Hold for two seconds, then return to start. Do eight to 10 reps, then repeat on the other side.
move 8 – yoga plex
Start in downward dog, palms and heels flat on the floor, back straight (a). Slowly bring your right foot between your hands (b). Rotate your torso to the right as you reach your right arm toward the ceiling (c). Reverse back to start. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating until you’ve done five or six on each side.
move 9 – side lunge to crossover lunge combo
Stand with your arms straight in front of you (a). Step right and lower into a side lunge (b). Bring your left leg behind your right, lowering your knee toward the floor (c). Push off your left foot to stand. Do six to eight reps, then repeat on the other side.
Written by Jen Ator
Originally published at Womenshealthmag.com