Before you hit the weights for your strength training workout or even a cardio session, it is important to do full body warm-up exercises to prepare.
A full body warm-up routine will help increase circulation to your muscles, get your joints moving, and prepare your central nervous system and neuromuscular system to take on the workout ahead.
But, what are the best full body warm up exercises for your pre-workout routine? What movements are best for a mobility warm-up or full body warm up routine before lifting weights or working out?
In this article, we will discuss the importance of a full body mobility warm up and provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best full body warm up exercises, including upper and lower body warm up exercises, to include in your pre-workout warm up routine.
We will cover the following:
- Do I Need to Do a Full Body Warm Up Before My Workout?
- How to Do a Full Body Warm Up Routine Before Lifting Weights
- The Best Full Body Warm Up Exercises for Lifting Weights
Let’s jump in!
Do I Need to Do a Full Body Warm Up Before My Workout?
Many bodybuilders, strength athletes, competitive weightlifters, and even more serious recreational strength training athletes perform body part split routines, which means that their strength training workouts only focus on a certain area of the body or a handful of muscle groups per day.
For example, rather than doing total-body strength training workouts twice a week, a more advanced weightlifting training approach would be to do an upper-body/lower-body split routine with upper-body exercises two to three days per week and lower-body workouts the other days per week.
Alternatively, you might do a push, pull, leg workout split, which involves doing a strength workout for the pushing muscles one day, a strength workout for pulling muscles a different day, and a leg workout yet another day.
You may even divide your workouts into even more specific body parts splits, such as a chest day, a back workout another day, a biceps and triceps workout, legs and core, and a shoulders workout.In any of these cases with body parts splits, you might wonder, “Do I need to do a full body warm-up if I am only training certain muscle groups?“
The short answer is: yes, a full-body warm-up is ideal before weightlifting workouts, even if you are only training isolated muscle groups.
Benefits of a Full Body Warm-Up Routine
Studies suggest that the most effective warm-up routine before weightlifting is to combine general full body warm up exercises and mobility work with activation exercises and movements that are specific to the exercises planned for the workout of the day.
Furthermore, even exercises that seem only to target certain areas of the body actually recruit other muscles.
For example, while squats primarily work the glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductors, and calves, they also require core activation, as well as lower and upper back muscles.
If you are doing upper-body push or pull exercises, you will also need all of the muscles of your core, back, and hips to be warmed up and ready.
Essentially, even isolation exercises are not performed in a vacuum. Your entire body is connected, and a full body warm-up will help ensure that you are able to utilize the full range of motion to maximize the effectiveness of your lifts.
Overall, warming up before weightlifting has been shown to improve performance, and a full body warm up with ramp-up sets has also been shown to increase maximal force output for your top heavy sets, allowing for heavier and more powerful lifts for better gains in strength and mass.
Finally, evidence suggests that doing a proper full body warm-up with all of the necessary components of a complete full body warm-up before weightlifting (a general cardio warm-up, dynamic stretches, activation exercises, CNS primers, and warm-up sets specific to the exercises you will be doing) can significantly reduce the risk of injuries.
This is because an effective full body warm-up increases circulation to your muscles, increases flexibility and mobility, primes the central nervous system for coordinated neuromuscular contractions, improves proprioception, prepares muscles and tendons, and increases mental focus.
All of these factors can reduce the risk of injuries incurred by improper technique, poor focus and coordination, exercising with tight and stiff muscles, and pushing the body beyond a comfortable range of motion before the tissues are well-perfused and warmed with blood.
How to Do a Full-Body Warm Up Routine Before Lifting Weights
Whenever you hit the gym to work out, you want your body and mind to be firing on all cylinders.
Whether your goal is to build muscle, lose fat, get stronger, or improve your performance, you certainly want to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts, no matter what is on the docket of your training schedule for the day.
When you think about warming up before a workout, certain aspects of the warm-up should be more or less specific versus generalized, depending on the type of exercise you are doing and the portion of the warm-up.
For example, a cardio warm up can be any type of aerobic exercise that helps increase your heart rate from your resting heart rate to guide it up to the heart rate zones you will be reaching during your actual workout.
You might do jumping jacks, a few minutes on an exercise bike, walking or jogging on the treadmill, or any type of exercise that can get the heart and blood pumping throughout your body.
In this way, particularly if you are warming up for weightlifting or a strength training warm-up, the cardio portion of the warm-up can be extremely general and isn’t really tailored to the specific weightlifting exercises you will be doing.
The exception here is if you’re going to be doing a cardio workout, such as running intervals or a HIIT indoor cycling workout, you will likely do the same type of exercise as your workout for the warm up but just at a low intensity.
However, if you are going to be doing strength training, almost any type of aerobic exercise will provide the same benefits.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may also do activation exercises as part of your weightlifting warm up.
For example, you might do a lunge matrix prior to a squat workout, or you might do a warm up set of squats with 50% of your target load for your top heavy set.
These activation exercises are specific and tailored to the strength training workout you are going to be doing.
In other words, you wouldn’t do a lunge matrix prior to an upper-body pull or push routine, but you might do inchworms or walkouts, overhead reaches with a resistance band, shoulder clocks, or bodyweight push-ups, for example.
Thus, while there isn’t a definitive list of the best full body warm up exercises before any type of workout, a full body warm-up before lifting weights should include the following components:
- A general cardio warm-up rather than passively warming up your muscles with heating pads or a whirlpool.
- Dynamic stretches and activation exercises rather than static stretching.
- Warm-up sets with 50 to 65% of your 1RM for the lift.
The Best Full Body Warm Up Exercises for Lifting Weights
Here are some of the best full body warm up exercises:
#1: Jumping Jacks
Adding jumping jacks to your full-body warm-up routine helps combine cardio with muscle activation and dynamic mobility of the shoulders and hips.
#2: Jumping Rope
Jumping rope is a great full-body exercise because it activates the core, shoulders, arms, glutes, calves, ankles, quads, and hamstrings.
#3: Seal Clap Jacks
Seal clap jumping jacks are essentially the same as regular jumping jacks, but instead of bringing your arms up overhead with every jump, you sweep them parallel to the ground and clap out in front of your chest.
#4: Walking Lunges
- To perform walking lunges, place your hands on your hips. Keep your chest up, your core tight, and your shoulders down.
- Take a giant step forward and bend each knee to drop down to a lunge. Your back knee should hover just above the ground, and your front knee should be bent to 90° with your shin vertical and your thigh parallel to the ground.
- Then, as you stand up out of the lunch, bring your rear leg all the way forward into a forward lunge so that every step you take is a lunge.
Burpees combine a squat, push-up, and vertical jump, making them one of the best full body warm up exercises before strength training.
#6: Lunge Matrix
If you have limited space, you can perform a lunge matrix, which is a great for your lower body warm up.
- Stand upright and then step your right foot forward and drop down into a forward lunge.
- Then, instead of stepping just back into a standing position, bring your right foot all the way back behind your body and drop down immediately into a reverse lunge.
- Then, as you stand back up from the reverse lunge, take your right leg and bring it all the way out to the side and press into a lateral lunge.
- Repeat the same pattern on the left side.
- Complete 10 reps per side.
- For this full body warm up exercise, start by standing upright and lifting your arms straight up overhead.
- Then, hinge from your hips and reach your fingertips towards the ground.
- Slowly walk your fingertips out, dropping your hips until you are in a high plank position as if you are going to perform a push-up.
- Bend your elbows to complete one full push-up.
- Then, reverse the walkout by hiking your hips up into the air as you walk your hands back up until you can stand up straight and bring your arms all the way overhead.
- Complete 10 reps.
For more ideas about how to effectively prep your body for a workout, check out our guide to how to warm up before weightlifting here.