Working out can be hard on the body. Many exercises put pressure on the important musculoskeletal joints in the shoulders, arms, hips and knees. It’s therefore important to acclimatise the muscles to light activity and exercise before you embark on a full-on routine. What are the best stretches and warm up exercises that will ensure you avoid injury and maximise the benefits of your strength or functional training?
Our Recommended Exercises
Some of our favourite stretches and warm up movements include the following
The Inchworm is a little bit trickier than the Vinyasa. It targets the back of your body and opens up your muscles to get your workout started in the best way.
Begin in a Down Dog position, then walk your feet forwards. You should aim to get your feet as close to your hands as possible while keeping your legs straight. Then, walk your hands out and extend into a pushup or plank position. Simply push back up into a Down Dog and walk your feet forwards again to restart the exercise. Go for 5 or 10 of these to warm up your legs and back.
Vinyasa Flow Yoga
The Vinyasa Flow is a popular yoga set of exercises, which are performed as a continuous set of slow transitions. Expect a dynamic warm up that opens up your back and front, while also strengthening your upper body.
Move slowly from each exercise into the next, while focusing on you’re the rhythm of your breath. Vinyasa Flow moves from a High Plank down into a Cobra, then back up into Down Dog. Move from Down Dog back into High Plank to begin the set again. Around 5 sets is a great warm up.
The Scorpion is essentially a reverse Leg Crossover. It’s an identical movement but done face down.
Stretch your arms out like a leg crossover, except start with your face towards the floor. Then, roll your body to the right so that your right heel comes across to meet your left hand. Return and repeat the other side. Aim for 8-12 reps for a great stretch.
This stretch is unusual but a great way to open up your glutes and allow for better spinal rotation.
Lie on your side with your legs curled up in a fetal position and your arms stretched out in front of your chest. Keep one knee on top of the other and then move your right arm across your body to touch the floor on the opposite side. Return it back and repeat for 5-6 reps on each side of your body.
Instructions:The Plank Lunge In is a great dynamic stretch that opens up your hips, hip flexors and hamstrings. Plus, you can lean into the stretch for extra difficulty.
Start in a push up position, then bring your right foot forwards. It should sit to the outside of your right hand. Then, feel the stretch by leaning forwards at your hips. Return back to your push up position to finish the rep, then move on to the other leg. Aim for 10-15 reps of this dynamic stretch.
Plank Lunge Twist
The Plank Lunge Twist is a more dynamic version of the Plank Lunge. Apply a twist for an extra rotation to really warm up your hips.
Same as the Walk In above, but move your back foot to be flat on the floor when you push down in the walk in section, then twist your body to the same side as your forward foot. Stretch one hand up above your body and feel the stretch through your hips and upper body.
The Pigeon is the perfect stretch to loosen up tight hips and glutes. It can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable, so take it easy and don’t overstretch if you’re not confident.
Start from a push up position, and bring your right knee up towards your right hand. Bend at the knee to bring your right leg across your body and underneath you, so that your right foot comes just behind your left hand. Then, sink your hips towards the floor and dip your shoulders forwards to feel the stretch. Return back to the push up position and then repeat on the other leg. Aim for 10-12 reps.
Leg swings are a great, simple movement that opens up your hips, hip flexors and hamstrings. Easy to do but with real benefits.
Hold onto a wall or other fixed surface, then swing one leg back and forth as if you’re kicking a soccer ball. Aim to open your leg out on the backswing to stretch your hips. Go for around 10 swings on each side.
Fire Hydrant Circles
Start on all fours. Brace your core and really focus on keeping everything still except the leg that’s currently working. Keep your left leg bent at 90 degrees, then move it out to the side and in a circular motion. Aim for 5 circles in each direction per leg.
Twisting Reverse Lunge
This stretch is designed to open your hip flexors and abs. It’s also a good stretch to practice your balance. Try these every morning to wake up your muscles and work on your balance.
Begin in a standing position, then take a step back with your left foot, keeping your core and abs engaged for balance. Drop into the lunge position, then twist your upper body and arms around over your right leg. Stand back up and and repeat with your other foot to complete the reps. Aim for around 10-15 reps.
Step Hamstring Stretch
This hamstring stretch is perfect for opening and waking up your hamstrings. Hamstrings are a key part of lots of exercises and complex lifts, so it’s vital you stretch them out before starting your workout!
Start from standing and then move forward into a forward lunge. Drop your chest and upper body and stretch your arms down to inside your outstretched leg. You should feel this stretch in your upper hamstring and groin. Then, move your hand to the other side of your foot, and extend your body back to straighten your trailing leg. Then, simply reverse the motion to come back through the sequence. Switch to your other leg and repeat to complete the rep. Aim for 6-10 reps of this stretch.
Walk it Out
And when you have finished your exercise schedule it’s always good to warm down and ease off the stress. Rather than going straight into the shower or jumping in the car, it can be really beneficial to allow your muscles to warm down with a five minute walk on the treadmill.
Want a Complete Workout System?
If you want to have a full workout plan designed for you that comes complete with stretches and exercises to ensure you push your limits in a safe and controlled manner, then why not talk to Xavi at EMS Fitness? With his fitness credentials and qualifications, he can build an exercise plan that’s tailored to your needs and designed to help you hit your fitness goals.