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7 Warm-Up Exercises That Will Help You Make The Most Of Every Single Workout

15th January 2021

15th January 2021

By Shivraj Bassi

Nobody works out just for the warm up - but that doesn’t make it any less important. After all, who wants to slog their way through a series of dull static stretches before they get to the good part? What you don’t know is that doing even a couple of low-key exercises before you race off towards the horizon can make a huge difference to your fitness performance. 

A proper warm up before you work out helps to prevent injuries, as well as preparing your nervous system and muscles to perform in the most optimal, way. Dynamic stretches have been shown to give a performance advantage over static stretches, so you should always warm up with exercises which involve movement and guide your joints through their full range of motion rather than simply holding a stretch position for extended periods of time. 

We’ve assembled some of the absolute best dynamic exercises to try before your run, bike ride or swim and are simple, easy and involve no equipment. If your exercise regime is focusing specifically on your upper or lower body, choose your moves accordingly to get the best possible results

Your warm up should take around ten minutes, and you should focus on working your muscles to the point of resistance rather than pain. 

Arm reach

Start out in a standing position with your legs wider than hip width apart and your feet facing forwards. Pivot onto your right foot and confidently swing your right arm across your chest, while twisting your upper body and torso in the same direction. Repeat immediately with the other arm before repeating the movement on both sides for 30 to 60 seconds.

Side reach

Again, begin in a standing position with your legs wider than hip width apart. Bending your right knee slightly, lean your body towards the right, while simultaneously stretching your left arm above your head towards the sky on a diagonal. Keep your left leg stretched and long. Once completed, repeat on the other side, then continue on both sides for 30 to 60 seconds. 

High knee lift

You might recognise this move from the old-school calisthenics videos your parents used back in the day. Back to our favourite starting position, standing your feet wider than hip width apart. Bending your arms, place your hands behind your head. Lift your left leg up towards your body, bending your knee as if you were trying to touch your rib cage. Repeat on the other side, then continue alternating the same move for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Squats with raised heels 

Standing with your legs wider than hip width apart, turn your toes out slightly as if you were a ballet dancer. Gently bend your knees, push your hips back and lower yourself into a squat. Drop your arms down between your legs, then push up onto the balls of your feet and raise your heels from the ground. As you raise out of the squat, lift your arms above your head and continue to balance on your toes before bringing your feet back to a flat position. Repeat this sequence for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Plank walk out

Photo by Julia Ballew on Unsplash

Everyone’s favourite position to hate on, the plank might be unpopular but there’s no denying that it’s effective. To complete this exercise, begin in a relaxed standing position. Bending down until your hands touch the ground, slowly walk your hands forward, controlling your core, until you’re in a plank position. Pause and hold for a few seconds, then slowly walk your hands back towards your feet, bringing yourself upright once more. Repeat the exercise for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Lateral lunge with balance

Stand with your feet hip width apart with your arms relaxed at your sides. Take a large step to the left and push your hips back, bending your left knee and lowering your body towards the floor until your left knee is bent in a 90 degree angle. Push back into an upright position, using your momentum to lift your knee upwards and pull it into your chest with your arms. Repeat on the same side for 30 to 60 seconds before repeating the exercise on your right side. 

Star jump 

It might take you back to your school PE classes, but star jumps are a classic for a reason. Stand relaxed and upright, with your feet hip width apart. With a burst of energy, simultaneously jump your feet outwards so they’re more than shoulder width apart and raise your arms out to the side and over your head, before quickly reversing the movement without pause. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds while marvelling at the fact that you must have been fitter as a child than you thought you were, because you’re finding star jumps harder now than you did back then. 

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With everything that goes into a daily schedule, the commitments of a busy lifestyle can mean it’s pretty hard (and sometimes impossible) to make time to exercise. It can also be hard to find the motivation to exercise after a long day even when you do have the time. It can be a really vicious cycle. With that in mind, you may be searching for some tips on how to find time in the day to exercise, correct? Or maybe some tips on how to extend the hours in the day so that you have enough time to get everything done? Well. Whilst we’d be millionaires if we had the answer to the second question (although The Focus Capsules might be able to help with that one), we can definitely help you with the first. Figuring out how to make time to exercise can be pretty difficult, but we’ve got five tips below that might just help you when it comes to fitting in fitness. How to make time to exercise If we could give you just one piece of advice: preparation is key. Planning and scheduling is the only way to successfully stay on track, and staying on track and remaining consistent is absolutely the quickest way to smashing your fitness goals. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, so if you can choose and apply one of our below five tips to fitting in exercise to your life, we promise that after those initial three weeks, making time for exercise will become like second nature.  Here’s our top five tips for when it comes to making time for exercise… Switch up your commute Wondering how to fit the gym in with work? Think about your commute. The average commute is around 62 minutes in the United Kingdom. That’s over two hours a day that we are commuting. Not only is that a huge chunk of the day, but it’s two hours of the day that could be spent exercising… potentially. If you could switch up your commute to walk, cycle or run (maybe all, but even part of the way), this somewhat redundant time can be used to not only get you where you need to be, but assist you in fitting in fitness to your busy day. Granted, if you are commuting over an hour a day, it’s likely you are using a train service or perhaps driving yourself to your destination… but this doesn’t mean that you can incorporate some level of exercise into your day. Park slightly further away, or maybe get off at an earlier stop and walk, run or cycle the rest of the way. Every little helps. Set an earlier alarm (sorry) Whilst this is probably the tip that nobody wanted to hear, a great way of making time for exercise is to set your alarm earlier to give yourself extra time in the day. Getting up earlier not only provides you with a great chunk of extra time to get your workout in, but allows you to avoid the morning rush hour, give your body time to prepare for the day, and allows you to slow down a bit and avoid the awful morning rush that comes with those extra ten minutes in bed. Gym classes start as early as 5am, offering you the perfect opportunity to get an hour of exercise in before your commute and work. If classes aren’t your thing, though, there’s nothing better than a sunrise run or cycle. Seriously! Try it. Make the most of your lunch break Stop using your lunchbreak to just sit and scroll on your social media channel of choice. Make a conscious effort to leave your desk, office or home workspace and get out and about. Go on a walk, run, cycle or even lunchtime swim during your lunch break and really make the most of your lunch hour. The best part about this strategy is no early alarm, no late finish time… just time to yourself in the middle of the work day to not only smash out your workout for the day, but have some well-deserved time to yourself in amongst the office chaos. Sounds good (and productive) to us. Make every task count Waiting for your food to cook in the microwave? Do some star jumps. You may look a little crazy in the shared office kitchen, but so be it. No pain no gain, right? Want to watch your favourite TV show after work? Why not watch it whilst on the treadmill at the gym. Need to take the dog for a walk? Make that lap round the field two laps. Need to grab some milk and bread from the store? Walk, don’t drive. Little changes here and there add up to an overall healthier and more active lifestyle. At the end of the day, fitting in exercise doesn’t strictly refer to going to the gym or heading out for a run. Like we said… every little helps. Be strict with your schedule It’s time to start treating your exercise schedule like your work schedule. Got a gym class booked for 6pm? It’s now non-negotiable, just like that end-of-quarter sales meeting you’ve got pencilled in your calendar. Too often we fall victim to the post-work social calling (aka a trip to the pub), or even just the temptation of our sofa after work, which means that the scheduled post-work workout gets thrown out the window. Not anymore. If you’ve scheduled a workout, stick to it. Don’t sack off your gym schedule for something better (or nothing at all). It’s a commitment you’ve made that is just as important as those daily meetings, only this time, it’s a commitment to yourself. Making time for exercise is just as important as everything else, as it’s key for your health, wellbeing, and overall performance after all! Summary So. You wanted to know how to exercise with a busy schedule… we hope we’ve answered your question. Whilst it can be tempting to cancel, post-pone or even neglect our exercise routines as a result of the demands of work, relationships or otherwise, fitting in exercise needs to become a priority. Period. If you’re struggling or are unsure of how to make time for exercise, give one (or all) of our above tips a go. Find out which tip for fitting in exercise works best for you and start your fitness schedule. Exercise and working out is a hugely important part of your schedule, so it’s time to start treating exercise like a priority. Self-care 101. References SME News. 2021. New survey reveals large regional differences in workers’ commuting experience - SME News. [online]. Click here. Brain Pickings. 2021. Popiva, M. How Long It Takes To Form A New Habit. [online]. Click here. Read more