7 Quick Moves to Do Before Every Strength Workout

By K. Aleisha Fetters, C.S.C.S. |

It takes less than 10 minutes to set yourself up for fewer injuries and better results. Here’s how.

Older couple warming up before exercise

You wouldn’t pull a raw chicken out of the fridge and drop it on the dinner table. It needs to be rinsed, seasoned, and cooked before being enjoyed as a meal.

The same concept applies to your body before strength training. Doing a few light mobility exercises is crucial for preparing your muscles and joints for the work ahead, reducing the risk of injury, and maximizing results.

“Warmups increase available range of motion and redirect blood flow from digestion to the working muscles,” says Blake Dircksen, D.P.T., a certified strength and conditioning specialist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City. “Warmups also help wake up the nervous system so your muscles can fire with as much force and as quickly as they need to.”

So, what makes for a great pre-strength routine? There are two key elements, according to Dircksen:

  1. It engages all of your major muscle groups and joints, including your hips, knees, shoulders, and spine.
  2. It gently moves your spine through all of its natural ranges of motion, including flexion (bending forward), extension (bending backward), lateral flexion (side bending), and rotation.

The quick full-body warmup below checks both of those boxes.

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How the Pre-Strength Warmup Works

For best results, start with 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity like stationary cycling or walking, suggests Kristen Gasnick, D.P.T., a physical therapist at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey.

Then, do one set of each pre-strength move, in order. While seven exercises may seem like a lot to do before your workout even begins, this full routine takes less than 10 minutes.

Warmup Move #1: Pelvic Tilt

Do 8 to 10 reps

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Flatten your lower back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and tilting your pelvis up slightly. Hold your lower back to the floor for up to 10 seconds, then release. That’s 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps total.

Warmup Move #2: Glute Bridge

Do 8 to 10 reps

Lie on your back with knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart (heels should be a few inches away from your buttocks). Press your arms into the floor for support and brace your core to minimize the arch in your lower back.

From here, push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. As you get stronger, focus on getting your shins as close to vertical as you comfortably can at the top of the movement. Pause, then slowly lower your hips to return to starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps total.

Warmup Move #3: Cat-Cow

Do 8 to 10 reps

Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Slowly round your back up toward the ceiling (like a cat) while tucking your chin toward your tailbone. Then reverse the movement by arching your back (think about a cow) while lifting your hips and head. That’s 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps total.

Cautionary note: This move may not be recommended if you have osteoporosis.

Warmup Move #4: Quadruped Rotation

Do 5 reps per side

Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Place your right hand behind your head and then rotate your torso to point your right elbow toward the ceiling, as far as is comfortable. Pause, then slowly lower back down, pointing your right elbow to the floor. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps, then repeat on the other side.

Cautionary note: If you have osteoporosis, twisting and bending moves may not be right for you. Talk to your doctor about safe exercise.

Warmup Move #5: Seated Leg Extension

Do 5 reps per side

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Sit toward the front of your chair with knees bent and feet flat, holding on to the sides for balance.

Keeping your left foot planted and upper body still, straighten your right knee until your leg is parallel with the floor. Hold for 2 counts, making sure the front of your thigh is engaged, and then lower it back to the floor. Do 5 reps on the right, then repeat on the left.

Warmup Move #6: Seated Side Bend

Do 5 reps per side

Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Let your arms hang down on both sides of your body.

From here, gently bend to the right from your waist, extending your right hand toward the floor, as far as is comfortable. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s 1 rep. Continue alternating for 5 reps total.

Cautionary note: If you have osteoporosis, twisting and bending moves may not be right for you. Talk to your doctor about safe exercise.

Warmup Move #7: Shoulder Roll

5 reps in each direction

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. Roll your shoulders forward, up, back, and down as smoothly as possible. After 5 reps, reverse direction and repeat.

As you roll your shoulders forward, squeeze your chest muscles to actively pull your shoulders forward. As you roll your shoulders backward, squeeze your shoulder blades together to feel your upper-back muscles contract.

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