By Rachel Cosgrove
One possible reason your desired fitness results still elude you: you’re starting your workouts all wrong.
You probably know a dynamic (moving) warm-up can help you ward off injury and perform better during your workout. But what you may not know is that there’s a lot more to an effective pre-exercise routine than star jumps and high knees. To reach your fitness goals faster, you need to start every workout with a warm-up like this one. While many dynamic warm-ups get your heart rate going, routines like this are also designed to reduce tension, improve mobility and activate lazy muscles – crucial steps to help ramp up your training session. Oh, and it will take only about 10 minutes (awesome!). Here are the simple steps you need in order to fire up properly. Do 10 reps of all exercises listed.
ROLL WITH IT
Research shows that foam rolling can improve range of motion during a workout as well as reduce soreness after. It’s a quick and easy way to minimise adhesions and knots in soft tissue, so your muscles and joints can move freely.
DO IT: Total-body foam roll
Starting with your calves, use a foam roller or massage ball on all your major muscle groups – glutes, quads, hamstrings, ITB ligament and shoulders – spending more time on sore or tight areas.
MOVE YOUR HIPS
Women neglect their hip flexors as much as they neglect their budgets during a Spree sale. But tight flexors can inhibit proper movement in exercises like squats and lunges and set your body up for injury (one study found that women with runner’s knee were more likely to have weaker hip flexors than the uninjured).
DO IT: Hip-flexor stretch
Kneel on your right knee with hands behind your head. Squeeze your right glute as you press that hip forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
ENGAGE YOUR ANKLES
Poor things, they get very little love. But here’s why you should give your ankles a thought: stiff ones put extra stress on knees and hips when you do anything that requires ankle flexion, like running, jumping and stepups. And if you’re a high-heel lover, you’re even more prone to anklemobility issues.
DO IT: Standing ankle dorsiflexion stretch
Place both hands on a wall with one foot staggered about half a metre to a metre in front of the other, the front foot a few centimetres away from the wall. Slowly drive your front knee towards the wall, then back to start. Do all reps on that side, then switch legs.
FIRE UP THOSE GLUTES
All the sitting we do makes our butt muscles sleepy – even during sweat sessions. This move wakes them up so they’ll be energised and ready to kick, you know, butt.
DO IT: Marching hip bridge
Lie on your back with knees bent. Lift your hips until your knees and shoulders form a straight line. Alternate lifting your left leg, then your right. Do 10 reps on each side.
DO IT: Clam shell
Lie on your left side with knees bent. Keep your hips still and lift your right knee. Hold for two seconds, then return to start. Do all reps on that side, then switch sides.
Proper posture allows your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments to work like a well-oiled machine. Ease tightness with the first move below, then engage postural muscles, open your chest and warm up your shoulders with the second.
DO IT: Open half-kneeling thoracic rotation
Kneel on your left knee, right foot flat on the floor in line with your left knee. Place your left hand on the floor directly under your shoulder and raise your right arm; pause, then bring it down between left arm and leg. Return to start. Do all reps, then switch sides.
DO IT: Wall slides
Stand with your back against a wall and slide the backs of your hands, elbows and arms up the wall. Slide back down, keeping in contact with the wall.
DROP IT LOW
Body-weight squats won’t fully prep muscles for a demanding workout. This sequence switches on everything that needs to work – and ensures proper (read: safe) form during total-body moves.
DO IT: Reaching squat to stand
Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, arms raised overhead. Bend at your waist to grab your toes. Then lower your hips down into a squat position, knees outside your arms. Lift your chest and raise your arms overhead one at a time, then stand.
TALK TO YOURSELF
By sending signals from your noggin to your body, these moves can strengthen the communication between brain and brawn.
DO IT: Single-leg reach
Stand on your left leg and raise your right arm. Lower your torso and lift your right leg behind you. Return to start. Perform all reps on that side, then switch legs.
TAKE THE LUNGE
Lunges are overachievers in the best possible way: they’re unilateral, so you can’t compensate if you have a stronger leg; they train balance and engage the core; and, since they’re compound movements, they activate more than one joint at a time. The specific types shown here get you moving in multiple directions, a key factor in any warm-up.
DO IT: Reverse lunge with rotation
Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and hands on your head, step back with your left leg into a lunge and turn your torso to the right. Pause, then return to start. Perform all reps on that side, then switch.
DO IT: Alternating lateral lunge
Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, step your right foot out into a side lunge, pause, then drive off the right leg to return to start. Perform all of the reps on that side, then switch legs.
PICK UP THE PACE
This last step is like a dress rehearsal, putting all the pieces together while pumping up your heart rate so you’re ready for anything!
DO IT:Single-leg hop
Stand on one foot and imagine there’s a line drawn on the floor. Hop quickly back and forth over the line 10 times, then switch feet and repeat.
DO IT:Lateral shuffle
Start in a squat, with knees bent and hips back. Shuffle 10 steps to the right as fast as you can, then 10 steps to the left. That’s one rep. Continue alternating.