Learn how to warm up before a workout with this 10-move routine

We asked a personal trainer how to warm up before a workout to prepare your body and the moves you need to hit your goals

James Shapiro performing an isometric bear hold
(Image credit: James Shapiro)

It's crucial to learn how to warm up before a workout and make it a regular part of your exercise routine. Many of us have heard that warming up stretches your muscles and promotes blood flow, but it can be tempting to miss it when you're tight on time. 

This is not a good idea, says personal trainer James Shapiro. "Going into a workout without warming up can be dangerous,” as a short warm up can improve your circulation, increase blood flow to your muscles, and help develop an awareness of your body.   

So, it's worth taking on a proper warm-up before lifting your favorite set of the best adjustable dumbbells. Especially because skipping your warm up before a workout can make it harder to stick to perfect form, possibly risking injury. 

That's why we asked Shapiro to design a short warm-up you can do before you train. He's put together a 10-move plan to help you prepare for exercise, engage your muscles, and get the blood flowing around your body. 

Headshot of James Shapiro
James Shapiro

James Shapiro is an LA-based sports performance coach and personal trainer who works with athletes, stay-at-home moms, post-rehab patients, and anyone looking to improve their fitness. He also holds two Master's degrees in Exercise Science (Wellness & Fitness and Strength & Conditioning). 

How to warm up before a workout

James advises thinking of the acronym RAMP, which stands for: "Raise your heart rate, Activate muscle groups, Mobilize joints, and Potentiate [activate] your nervous system.” 

You can do the whole routine in about five minutes, or repeat the circuit for an extended warm up. The only thing you'll need is a yoga mat for some support and comfort while you do the floor-based exercises. 

1. Rolling ambar

James Shapiro performing a rolling armbar

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

The aim of the rolling armbar is to move one side of your body, including your ribs and hips, while switching between sides. You can hold a light dumbbell if you want to add some resistance, but it’s not essential. 

  • Lay on your back with your legs straight and your arms above your head in a 'Y' position. 
  • Raise your right leg to 90 degrees and your right arm towards the ceiling. 
  • Take a deep breath in and roll towards the left until you're lying on your left side, with hips and ribs touching the ground. 
  • Keep your gaze towards your raised arm to maintain your posture. 
  • Exhale as you reverse the movement and repeat on the other side. 
  • Repeat this pattern for 30 seconds. 

2. 90-90 hip switches

Hip switches are a great way to boost mobility around your hips and pelvis, improving your flexibility and warming up your mid-body. 

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and hands behind you. Keep your arms straight and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Swing both knees to your right side, keeping your back straight and chest proud.
  • Slowly swing your knees over to the left side, moving your legs and not your feet. 
  • Return to the starting position and repeat for 10 repetitions. 

3. Short bridge side plank

James Shapiro performing a short bridge side plank

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

Some of the most effective core strengthening exercises, like the short bridge side plank, get you to lay on the ground and move up. Unlike the standard, straight-legged version, a short bridge makes your body more compact and works several ab muscles, including your obliques.

  • Lay on your side on your mat, with your feet together, and place your forearm on the ground for support with your elbow directly below your shoulder. 
  • Bend your knees so that your calves and feet are behind you, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. 
  • Push your hips up from the ground and reach your top arm forward in front of you.
  • Pause here and focus on your breath before returning to your starting position. 
  • Repeat on the other side. 

4. Isometric bear position

James Shapiro performing an isometric bear hold

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

An isometric exercise is one where you hold a position for a short period, so you'll rise into a bear position and stay there for a moment. This move engages your core, triceps, shoulders, hamstrings, quads, and calves, boosts endurance, and improves hip mobility. 

  • Start on all fours, with your knees on the ground underneath your hips and hands under your shoulders. 
  • With your toes tucked in and straight arms, push into the ground and lift your knees off the floor. 
  • Hold this position with a neutral spine while focusing on your breath. 
  • After a few moments, lower back to your starting position. 

5. Lateral crawling cossack squat rockers

James Shapiro performing lateral crawling cossack squat rockers

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

A Cossack rocker challenges your hip mobility and trains your adductors (the muscles around your thighs). This version adds crawling, which takes stress off your inner thighs for an effective lower-body warm-up. 

  • Start in an 'ape pose' with your knees bent, hands on the floor at shoulder distance apart, your feet just outside your hands, and your heels off the floor. 
  • Straighten your right leg out to the side with your toes facing up with your weight on your left leg. 
  • Move your weight towards your right leg so that your right knee bends and your left leg is now straight with your toes facing up. 
  • Return to the starting position. That's one repetition. 
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions. 

6. Push-up to alternating downward dog reach

James Shapiro performing a push-up to alternating downward dog reach

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

This is an excellent full-body exercise, working your hamstrings, increasing shoulder mobility, engaging your hips, and challenging your core for stability. 

  • Start in a push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders and feet wider than hip distance. 
  • Shift your hips up as if you were going into a downward dog yoga stretch, and reach one hand back towards your opposite knee/shin. 
  • Return to a push-up position and repeat on the opposite side. That's one repetition. 
  • Continue this pattern for 10 repetitions. 

7. Kickstand Romanian deadlift

James Shapiro performing a kickstand Romanian deadlift

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

The kickstand Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a fantastic way to practice hinging at your hips and to develop a stronger mind-muscle connection with your hamstrings and glutes. And, unlike the standard RDL, you don’t need any weights to get started. 

  • Stand a few steps in front of a wall, facing into the room. 
  • Step your right foot back against the wall with your toes on the ground to help you balance. 
  • Take a slight bend in your right knee and keep your arms straight down by your side with palms facing away from your body. 
  • Inhale as you hinge forward and focus on pushing your hips back and chest towards the ground. Pause once your hands pass your knee.  
  • You should feel the stretch in your upper rear leg muscles around your glutes. 
  • Push through the ground to reverse the movement, bringing your hips forward to return to the starting position. 
  • Repeat on the other side. Continue this pattern for 10 repetitions. 

8. Lateral lunge with overhead reach

James Shapiro performing a lateral lunge with overhead reach

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

The lateral lunge with overhead reach requires stability and endurance for the hold and forces your upper and lower body to work independently for the reach. 

  • Stand tall with a straight back, and take a step on one side so your feet are wider than hip-distance apart. 
  • Shift your hips in the same direction and bend that knee to hold the lateral lunge. Don't worry if you're leaning forward slightly. 
  • Straighten your arms in front of your chest and gradually raise them above your head. 
  • Once your hands have reached their maximum overhead position, push from the bent knee side and stand back up to recover.
  • Repeat on the other side. Continue this pattern for 10 repetitions. 

9. Incline push-up with bird-dog reach

James Shapiro performing an incline push-up with bird-dog reach

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

This move blends a traditional bodyweight push-up with a yoga stretch to work your core and engage the muscles around your stomach. It’ll challenge your stability, coordination, and it uses muscles all over your body. 

  • Start in a push-up position with your arms raised on a box or bench. 
  • Engage your core, lift your left arm forward, and raise your right leg. 
  • Hold this position for a few seconds—it’s okay to feel shaky. 
  • Return to your starting position and repeat on the other side. That's one repetition. 
  • Continue this pattern for 10 repetitions. 

10. Wall-assisted high knees

James Shapiro performing wall-assisted high knees

(Image credit: James Shapiro)

This move is designed to get your heart racing and blood pumping and challenges your stability. You'll also need to tense the muscles around your stomach to engage your core for this one, even though it's primarily a lower-body exercise. 

  • Stand facing a wall a few steps away, with legs hip-distance apart. 
  • Extend your arms in front of your chest and lean forward until your hands reach the wall. 
  • Lift both heels off the ground so that your weight goes through the balls of your feet. 
  • Raise one knee to hip height and return to the ground, before doing the same with your other leg. 
  • Continue this pattern for 20 seconds. 
  • It shouldn't feel like jumping; your feet should hit the ground lightly as you push into the wall for stability. 

For those between-session days, you want to ensure your muscles have enough time to recover. But that doesn't mean you can't add some movement into your day—take a walk outside or try these active recovery day exercises recommended by a personal trainer. 

Rachel Finn

Rachel is a freelance writer and editor, based in the UK, specializing in entertainment and lifestyle content. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, travel and obsessing over tiny dogs. She writes reviews, articles and round-ups for several Future Plc sites, including Fit&Well and Top Ten Reviews.