How to Warm Up & Stretch Correctly before Exercise

Those stretches you learned as a kid – called "static stretching" – can actually weaken muscles before exercise. Learn how to warm up the right way, with "dynamic" stretching.

You will need

  • Well-fitting workout clothing
  • Sneakers
  • Space to move around

Step 1 Get your muscles warm Wearing workout clothes and sneakers, raise your body temperature with five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity, like easy jogging or cycling.

Step 2 Lift your knees Walk in a straight line, alternately lifting your knees as high as you can; you can grab each knee with both hands when it’s raised for more stability. This stretches the hamstring and all related muscles. Do this, and the following stretches, for about a minute each.

Step 3 Kick your legs To warm up your hamstrings even more, do a straight-leg march: Kick one leg straight out in front of you, with your unpointed toes flexed toward the ceiling, and reach your opposite arm toward that foot. Don’t bend your torso. Lower your leg and take a step or two to maintain your balance. Repeat, alternating limbs.

Step 4 Lunge forward Do walking lunges: With your arms crossed in front of your chest so the fingertips on each hand touch the opposite shoulder, take a long step forward until your back leg is almost straight and then sit down into the lunge. Now twist your torso toward your back leg. Be careful not to bend forward or back. Bring your feet together and repeat with other leg. This warms up your gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

Step 5 Reach for the sky Reach one arm toward the sky and bend the opposite leg so your heel touches your butt; use the arm on that side to hold your leg there for a second before releasing. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Keep alternating as you walk to warm up your quadriceps and hip flexors.

Step 6 Do the bear crawl Do the bear crawl: Get down on your hands and toes, with your butt in the air and your knees off the floor. Bring your left foot forward so it meets your left hand; then crawl both hands forward so you’re back in the original position. Repeat with the right foot, and alternate between left and right. This stretches your hamstrings, groin, and glutes.