10 Warm-Ups for Cardio

If you’ve ever been short on time, or just needed to power through a workout to get to the other side, you may have decided to skip the few minutes of warming up and jump right into your intense cardio routine. We’ve all been guilty of this — but the few minutes of warming up (seriously, it takes five minutes) can make a huge difference for our performance during and after the workout. By literally “warming up” your muscles by increasing blood flow and raising your body temperature, you can maximize your cardio routine even more.

Benefits of Warming Up Before Cardio

    • Increased flexibility and range of motion: Doing a few simple exercises before cardio loosens the muscles and joints and increases your flexibility.
  • Lower risk of injury: Because your muscles are looser, they’re less prone to injury from a workout.
  • Increased blood flow and oxygen: By warming up, you activate your body’s circulatory system to better provide your muscles with the oxygen you need during aerobic or anaerobic exercise. 
  • Get in the zone: Starting out with an easier exercise before you dive into intense cardio can make it easier to “get in the zone,” especially if you’re feeling lethargic.

All of these benefits can lead to increased performance and feeling better during and after your workout. Still not convinced? Warm-ups are scientifically proven to have significant benefits. A warm-up can be as simple as a brisk jog — here are ten exercises, from head to toe, to help you get in the zone before a cardio routine. And just so you know, you don’t have to do all of these exercises. We recommend you pick a few that will help you loosen the body parts you’re targeting during your cardio routine. For example, if you’re focusing on legs and glutes that day, pay special attention to your legs and glutes during your warmup. But if you’re doing a full-body cardio workout, then pick moves that will help you loosen the who

Head and Shoulder Rolls

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and put your hands on your hips. Keeping your back straight, roll your shoulders backward, releasing any tension that you may be holding. Do 15 rolls, reversing direction halfway through. When you’re done, rotate your head fully in a clockwise motion, switching to a counterclockwise direction halfway through (doing this 15 times, as well).

Upper Body Twist

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bending your arms in front of you with your hands in loose fists. Keeping your feet planted, turn your body, hips, and torso to the right in one complete motion. Pause, then return to the center. Turn to the left side, and return to the center. Repeat on each side eight times to help stretch your spine.

Hip Circles

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart for this hip-loosening exercise. Put your hands on your hips, then push your hips out, to the side, back, and return to the starting position. Do this ten times, then repeat on the left side.

Arm Circles

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, extending your arms out to your sides. Keeping your shoulders down, rotate your arms clockwise. Make sure your arms are straight and your wrists are at the same level as your shoulders. Do this ten times, then switch to a counterclockwise for ten more times. On both sides, start with smaller circles, then gradually make them bigger for a more dynamic shoulder and arm stretch.

Knee Circles

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend forward slightly, putting your hands on your knees. Keeping your hips stable, move your knees clockwise for ten repetitions. Switch to a counterclockwise motion for ten more rotations. This exercise helps loosen your knees and strengthens ankle stability.

Knee Raises

Standing with your feet hip-width apart, lift one foot off the floor until your knee is at waist level. Pause, then lower your foot, switching to the other side. Do this ten times on each side. 

Hip Rotations

Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, then bend your arms and place your hands behind your head. Bend your right knee and lift your leg off the ground, circling your leg across your body, up, and back to starting position. Switch to the left side, doing ten repetitions on each side.

Plank Walk-Up

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your upper body down until your hands touch the ground. Slowly walk your hands forward into a plank position. Pause, then reverse back to standing. Do this for ten repetitions.

March in Place

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then left your right leg off the ground, bent at a 90-degree angle. At the same time, bend your left elbow and bring it to your chest. Switch sides, “marching in place” for one to two minutes. 

Jumping Jacks

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and jump your legs out, while simultaneously moving your arms out overhead. Jump back to the starting position (and move your arms inward, mirroring your legs). Do this ten times. Definitely leave jumping jacks for the last exercise of your warm-up, because it’ll get your heart pumping.

Warming Down

Warming down after a workout is just as important as warming up, although it looks a little different. After cardio, we recommend “static stretching,” which involves stretching your muscles through a series of held poses. This differs from the “dynamic stretching” aspect of a warm-up, in which you’re going through a series of dynamic exercises that are both stretching and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Warming down, like warming up, increases blood flow to your muscles, which they need to recover. By aiding in recovery, your muscles will be less sore and stiff the next day. It may also improve performance the next time you work out.

Next time you go to do a cardio workout, don’t immediately start revving your engine. By performing a simple and short routine of dynamic movements, you’ll get into the workout mindset and do your body a favor or two! Check out our post on the different types of core exercises you can engage in.



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