Before you begin your fitness routine, it’s a good idea to spend 5 to 10 minutes warming up your muscles. Hitting the ground running without stretching out your limbs could affect the quality of the first few minutes of your routine. Perform a few isolated movements for your legs to get your blood and enthusiasm flowing. Use a combination of yoga and calisthenics for your leg muscle warm-up exercises.
Standing Ankle Mobilization
While you’re warming up your legs, it’s a good idea to stretch out your psoas muscles as well. Activities like hard-core walking and running tend to shorten the psoas, which are attached to your lumbar spine and upper femur respectively. These little muscles are significant to the inward and outward rotation of your thighs. Place your hands on a wall at shoulder height and stand a little more than arm’s length away. Keep your heels down and bend your left knee until your upper leg is parallel to the floor. Hold for a couple of seconds and then keeping your left knee bent, lift your left leg across your body to the right. Hold for two seconds and then move your leg out to the left. Repeat this leg muscle warm up exercise 10 to 20 times on each side.
Ballet dancers and yoga enthusiasts enjoy the benefits of performing a sustained wide-legged squat. Not only are you giving your quads a warm up, but you’re also strengthening your hip flexors, which are critical in avoiding the compression of your lower spine. Stand with your feet 2 feet apart. Turn your feet out and then bend your knees. Don’t let your knees jut forward of your feet; keep them in line with each other to protect your knees. Place your hands on your knees and then on an exhale ground your right hand on your right knee and twist your body slightly to the left and look out over your left shoulder. Inhale back to the center and exhaling, repeat on the other side. Continue for up to 15 times on each side.
Lunges are an alternative to squats for warming up your legs; they are also an effective way to stretch out your psoas and hip flexors. Perform all the reps on one leg before switching to the other. Take a big step forward with your left leg. Inhale and bend your knees. The forward, left upper leg should be parallel to the floor, while the back right upper leg will be perpendicular to the floor. Exhale and rise up. Go back to your starting position and then perform nine more reps on your left leg. Repeat the maneuver on your right side.
Stretch for Life
Kundalini yoga is a dynamic warm-up for your legs. The poses in this style of yoga combine breathing and movement to create an effective way to energize your body and mind. Stand with your feet wide apart. If your legs are extra stiff, widen them even further. Bring your hands behind your back and thread your fingers together. Take an exhale and bend forward from your waist, while at the same time lifting your clasped hands away from your body towards the floor as you fold forward. In your bent-over position, sway from left to right at your waist, taking the weight on each leg in turn as you sway. Spend up to a minute in this stretch before rising up with a flat back.
Some light cardio can also serve as an effective way to warm up your body for more vigorous exercise. Light cardio can include walking or riding a stationary bike at a gentle to moderate pace to warm up your muscles and elevate your heart rate.
Dynamic stretches are beneficial to perform before any workout. Not only do they warm up your body, but they also boost your heart rate and create an alert feeling. Dynamic stretches to consider adding to your pre-workout warm up include jumping jacks, leg swings, arm swings, shoulder circles, hip twists and walking lunges. Performing these warm-up exercises before your workout limits your risk of injury.
- YogaJournal.com: The Psoas Is; Liz Koch
- ACE Fitness: Standing Ankle Mobilization
- YogaJournal.com: Get Hip About Flexors: Julie Gudmestad
- “Yoga Sanctuary”; Shiva Rea; 2000
- “Strength for Life: The Fitness Plan for the Rest of Your Life”; Shawn Phillips and Pete Williams; 2008
- YouTube.com: Stretch for Life
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Dynamic Stretching Exercises