Before you jump into your workout, it’s really important to do some warm up exercises (particularly Dynamic Stretching), in order to reduce the chance of injury. I can recall many occasions in the past, when I picked up a heavy weight or kettlebell without any warm up, or did a gymnastic style calisthenics exercise (usually to impress someone, or pose for a photo) and then paid for it with pain and injury, often lasting weeks. Please avoid my past mistakes, and always start with a warm up routine.
I frequently use the following exercises for general bodyweight training, gymnastic style calisthenics on bars and rings, and kettlebells. I like to split the warm up into two parts:
- Dynamic Stretching: 5 minutes
- Light Cardio: 1-15 minutes (depending on temperature, age and exercise selection)
1. Dynamic Stretching Warm up
These are reasonably slow, controlled exercises, taking your muscles and joints through a range of motion, to prepare them for more strenuous exercise later. Although it’s called ‘Stretching’, it feels more like fluid movements than a stretch.
As you do these movements, Synovial Fluid gets released in our joints—think if it as a lubricating oil that helps your joints to move more easily, and with less pain. Increase the stretch gradually as you move—the aim is not to cause any pain.
The Dynamic Stretching warm up routine below takes about 5 minutes. However, if you are 50 or over, you may need to spend a little more time on your shoulders, as they can tend to get stiff with age.
Do 10 repetitions for each of the following:
|1. Turn head left and right||9. Flex forearms both ways|
|2. Tilt head down and up||10. Praying stretch|
|3. Tilt head towards your shoulders (gently)||11. Loosen wrists|
|4. Shrug shoulders up and back||12. Hip circles|
|5. Windmills to the front||13. Side leg raises—across your body and out|
|6. Windmills to the back||14. Leg kickbacks—in front and back|
|7. Side bends||15. Ankle circles in both directions|
|8. Trunk twists||16. Squats|
Busted…Yes, I have to admit my lower body was moving a little on those trunk twists. Sorry about that 🙂 You can reduce it by squatting down a little further. I took the video in one go a few minutes before I picked up my kids from school, so I didn’t have time to check and reshoot it. That’s life with children.
If you’re about to lift some very heavy weights or try exercises in which you can only do a handful of repetitions (or seconds), then it would be wise to additionally do 1-2 sets of that specific exercise at a much lower resistance, right before you do the exercise in your workout. For example, I normally do 6 tucked levers and skin-the-cat as an additional warm up (which also stretches the shoulders), just before I start my front and back lever training.
2. Light Cardio Warm up
This could be any of many exercises, such as jogging, star jumps, step ups, kettlebell swings, or cycling. You should aim to only exert yourself about 40-50% of what you can manage, so it’s fairly easy, and won’t negatively impact your main workout.
Once you feel warm and your heart rate and breathing has increased, then you’re ready to move onto your main workout. Most people will probably need around 3 minutes, but if it’s cold, or you’re over 50, then you may need to spend more time gradually warming up over 10-15 minutes.
My favourite cardio warm up exercise is a minute of kettlebell swings, as it works the whole body. In fact, when anyone asks me what type of treadmill to buy for cardio, I always recommend they get a kettlebell instead. It takes up a lot less room, and you can get a fantastic workout in very little time.
Enjoy your workout
George D. Choy
Personal Trainer & Calisthenics Instructor
Gymnacity in Oxted, Surrey, United Kingdom