The 4 Best Warm-Up Exercises You Can Do Before Any Workout

Crunched for time? Try these workout warm-up exercises instead of hopping on the bike or stepping up to the barre with cold muscles.

two women doing workout warm-up exercises at a playground
Photo: Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Some days, everything goes right with your workout: You build in enough time to do the perfect dynamic workout warm-up and your sweat session leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Other days? There's barely enough time to schedule your favorite fitness classes before or after work, in between errands, or just around your busy life—let alone warm up for them.

But the truth is that exercising with cold muscles can throw off your form, upping your risk of injury. And without proper warm-up exercises, your body will take much longer to get going during your actual training session.

So for the days when you really have no time to warm up, consider these quick stretches and warm-up exercises your answer. They'll fire up the muscles you need to power through any workout and get blood and oxygen flowing throughout your body so you're ready to crush any goal (even if it's just getting through HIIT class alive).

The best news is that they're easy warm-up exercises utilizing movements you're already familiar with, so you can do them in the studio's lobby or outside before a run without needing any instruction.

Workout Warm-Up Exercises

Lateral Lunge

How to: Start with legs together and take a big step out to the left. Reach hips back and drop down as if you're sitting in a chair. Repeat 15 times on each side.

This move recruits the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fascia latae (your abductor muscles, which help rotate your leg at the hip joint). "These are the muscles in the hip and leg that allow you to balance and stabilize," explains Michael Reyes, C.S.C.S., the personal training manager at Equinox Seaport in Boston. "If you're going into a class, it's important to get these muscles firing so you can use proper form running, spinning, and weightlifting." (

Stationary Quad Stretch with Overhead Reach

How to: Keeping left foot planted, bring right foot back to meet right glute. Reach left hand to the ceiling. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.

On top of increasing flexibility and stability, the added overhead reach to the traditional quad stretch releases your entire upper and side body, says Kelly Whittaker, C.S.C.S., a spin instructor at B/SPOKE Studios in Boston. "Quads are also crucial to exercise, so stretching them pre-workout helps increase flexibility and prevent injury." (Women can often be quad dominant, which can create muscle imbalances. Here, Anna Victoria shares her eight essential exercises to help restore that balance in your body.)

Knee Raise

How to: Stand tall and lift one knee above hip and alternate in a running format for 15 reps.

Knee raises are a great warm-up exercise to boost the strength and endurance of your hip flexor muscles, says Reyes. "These muscles lift the knees and prevent plodding in running or overuse of the knee in a biking motion." (

Wall Push

How to: Start with hands against a wall in a slightly downward position with a slight bend in both knees. Push as hard as you can for a count of 15 seconds. Engage your core and do not allow your stomach to bend in. (Think of a plank against a wall.)

"This warm-up exercise allows you to get a nice stretch and turn that core on instantly," says Reyes. "This also stretches the hamstrings to get you ready for a full range of motion in any exercise that a group fitness class will throw at you."

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