If you’ve ever gone straight from lounging around to trying to pick up a pair of dumbbells, you know how hard it can feel to try to strength train cold. When your body’s not primed for movement, even exercises that would normally come easily feel extra difficult.
Though a warm-up might seem like a waste of precious workout time, it can actually make your strength training session far more effective. Much like when you’re going for a run or jumping into a soccer game, your body benefits from being loosened up and having your blood pumping before you start lifting heavy weights. Research repeatedly shows that dynamic stretching (meaning, stretching that includes more active movements that get your heart pumping) improves athletic performance more than static stretching or not stretching at all.
That’s why for the most recent episode of Well+Good’s series “Good Moves,” we tapped Alo Moves trainer Roxie Jones to share a full-body warm-up designed to get your body ready for strength training. As she explains, this 11-minute series will “mobilize your joints and get your muscles activated so you can have the best training session possible.”
Jones starts off with a few mobility exercises to open up the range of motion in your back, shoulders, and hips. Throughout, she has you moving in a very careful and controlled manner. For instance, you start with cat-cows (which Jones says she personally starts every workout with) but very, very slow cat and cow movements. Jones says that quality is always better than quantity, particularly when you’re just starting to warm up. In cat-cow, you want to move slow enough that your back can arch each spinal joint, vertebrae by vertebrae. Now, that isn’t exactly how your spine works, but the mental image is helpful for going nice and slow.
Later, Jones has you move through circular “fire hydrants,” which are cheekily named after the way they resemble a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. She has you bring your leg up, out, around, and back while keeping your core engaged and back straight. No arched backs for this move—you want to isolate that hip and get a full rotation to loosen up the joint and increase blood flow. This is the kind of thing that helps you move better and lift heavier during your workout. “You’ll feel looser and more capable of getting better movement,” says Jones.
Next are a couple of muscle activating moves using isometric holds to get those muscle fibers firing and ready for bigger movements. And Jones ends with a couple dynamic plyometrics exercises to really get your heart pumping. “It’s great to have some plyometrics to get your tissues more elastic and ready to go,” says Jones.
All it takes is 11 minutes to loosen up and warm up your body so that you can get in a more effective strength-training session. So grab some comfy clothes, and press play.