Anyone who's ever jumped into a workout without a proper warm-up has almost certainly regretted it. That's because your body is like a car — it needs a little time to get its engine revving before you put the pedal to the metal. This is particularly true when it comes to your core.
"Both in exercise and in everyday life, your core is where all movement and power is generated," says Emily McLaughlin, in-house certified fitness trainer and nutrition expert at 8fit. Since your core is the foundation of any exercise, it's essential to keep it strong, especially if you sit for hours a day, which weakens your core muscles, she says.
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One way to to do that is to perform a core-activating warm-up before every workout. By doing so, "you're preparing your whole body for physical exertion and giving yourself the best chance possible to perform at your maximum potential," says McLaughlin.
Conversely, when you dive into exercise without proper prep, "you'll be stiff and unable to perform exercises at their range of motion or with proper form," says McLaughlin. What's more, you risk straining or pulling a muscle, which can ruin your workout or sideline you for days afterward.
5-Minute Core-Activating Warm-Up
Fire up your core and crush your workout with this quick and easy core-activating warm-up designed by McLaughlin. It not only gets your core muscles moving, but it boosts your ab burn, too.
Set a timer for five minutes (or more if your body needs it) and repeat these six moves in sequence until time's up.
Move 1: Alternating Toe Touches
- Start standing with legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Bring arms up to the side like a T, then hinge at your hips and rotate, touching your right toes with your left hand, slightly bending your right knee.
- Return to starting position and alternate, touching left toes with right hand.
Reps: 10 (5 on each side)
Move 2: Cat/Cow
- Start on all fours and spread your fingers wide.
- Breathe in then draw your bellybutton in and tuck through your pelvis, rounding your spine.
- Spread your shoulder blades and push away from the ground.
- As you breathe out, drop your stomach toward the ground, arching your tailbone to the ceiling.
Move 3: Downward Dog to Plank
- Start on all fours in a tabletop position.
- On an inhale, tuck your toes and straighten your arms and legs, pressing your hips up and back into Downward Facing Dog. You'll be in an inverted V shape.
- Keeping your legs straight, lower your hips into a high plank.
Move 4: Side Plank With Reach
- Lie on your left side with your left forearm on the ground, elbow directly under your shoulder. Your hips and feet should be stacked.
- Bracing your core, lift your hips off the floor so your body forms a straight line from head to toe.
- Keeping your torso stable, stretch your right arm overhead (perpendicular to the floor), then reach your hand under your torso
- Without sagging your hips or pushing your butt back, raise your arm back up overhead.
Reps: 5 on each side
Move 5: Dead Bug
- Lie on your back with
your arms extended straight over your shoulders and knees bent at 90 degrees
over your hips.
- Keeping your lower back pressed down, reach your right arm straight back and
extend your left leg straight forward to hover above ground.
- Come back to starting position, then extend your left arm and right leg.
Reps: 10 (5 on each side)
Move 6: Back Rolls
- Start seated with a straight spine, knees bent and pointed up toward the ceiling.
- With feet planted on the floor, bring your hands to the back of your thighs or front of your shins.
- Engage your abs and gently rock back onto your shoulders, then rock back to your starting position.