Good Warm-Up Exercises

(WFN) Every exercise session should start with a warm-up. Here are some stretching exercises you can try to get yourself started. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If any of the following exercises cause pain, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a doctor or physical therapist.

Exercise while sitting

While performing these exercises, maintain good posture. Keep your back straight; do not curve or slump your back. Make sure your movements are controlled and slow. Avoid quick, jerking movements. Do not bounce. Do not hold your breath during these exercises.

  • Ankle pumping. Sit on the floor with your feet straight out in front of you. Keeping your heels on the floor, lift your toes up as far as you can. Hold for a count of five.
  • Knee straightening. Raise your foot to fully straighten your knee out in front of you. Hold for a count of five. Lower your foot to the floor. Repeat on other side.
  • Hip bending. Lift one knee up toward the ceiling. As you lower this knee, raise your other knee. Alternate each leg as if you were marching in place (while sitting.)
  • Overhead reaching. Raise one arm straight over your head, with your palm facing away from you. Keep your elbow straight. Slowly lower your arm to your side. Repeat with other arm.
  • Shoulder touching. Sit with your arms at your sides and your palms facing up. Bend your elbows until your hands are touching your shoulders. Lower your hands to your sides.
  • Single arm lifts. Sit with your arms at your sides, fingers pointing toward the floor. Raise one arm out to your side, keeping your elbow straight and your palm facing down. Slowly lower your arm to your side. Repeat with your other arm.
  • Shoulder shrugs. Keeping your back straight, lift your shoulders up and forward toward your ears. Release your shoulders down and back in a smooth circular motion.
  • Arm circles. Sit with your arms at your sides, fingers pointing toward the floor. Raise both arms out from your sides (about 1 or 2 feet from your body). Keeping your elbows straight and your palms facing toward you, rotate your arms in small circles.
  • Single shoulder circles. Bending one elbow, put your fingertips on your shoulder. Rotate your shoulder and elbow clockwise, then counter clockwise. Repeat with each arm.

Stretching exercises

While performing these exercises, make sure your movements are controlled and slow. Avoid quick, jerking movements. Stretch until a gentle pull is felt in your muscle. Hold each stretch without bouncing or causing pain for 20 to 30 seconds. Do not hold your breath during these exercises.

  • Hamstring stretch. While standing, place one foot on a stool or chair, while holding onto a wall or sturdy object (such as a table). Choose a comfortable height that allows you to keep your knee straight. Slowly lean forward, keeping your back straight, and reach one hand down your shin until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Relax, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Quadriceps stretch. Stand facing a wall, placing one hand against the wall for support. Bend one knee, grasping your ankle and pulling your leg behind you. Try to touch your heel to your buttocks. Relax, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Calf stretch against wall. Stand facing the wall with your hands against the wall for support. Put one foot about 12 inches in front of the other. Bend your front knee, and keep your other leg straight. (Keep both heels on the floor.) To prevent injury, do not let your bent knee extend forward past your toes. Slowly lean forward until you feel a mild stretch in the calf of your straight leg. Relax, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Calf stretch on stairs. Stand on the stairs, holding a handrail or placing your hand on the wall for support. Place the ball of one foot on the stair. Lower your heel down toward the step below, until you feel a gentle pull in your calf. Switch legs.
  • Knee pull. Lie on your back and flatten the small of your back onto the floor. Bend one knee and pull your bent leg toward your chest, until you feel a pull in your lower back. Try to keep your head on the floor, but do not strain yourself. Gently lower your leg, and then repeat with your other leg.
  • Groin stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Slowly lower your knees to the floor until you feel a gentle pull in your groin and inner thighs.
  • Overhead arm pull. Lock your fingers together, with your palms facing out (or hold onto a towel so your hands are shoulder width apart). Extend your arms out in front of you with your elbows straight. Lift your arms to shoulder height. Raise your arms overhead until you feel a gentle pull in your chest or shoulders.
  • Behind back arm raise. At waist level, put your hands behind your back, locking your fingers together (or hold onto a towel so your hands are shoulder width apart). Straighten your elbows and raise your arms upward until you feel a gentle pull in your chest or shoulders.
  • Side bends. Stand straight with your legs about shoulder width apart. Reach over your head with one arm, elbow bent, sliding the opposite arm and hand down your thigh, toward your knee. Hold the stretch until you feel a gentle pull at your side. Repeat with other side.
  • Double shoulder circles. While bending your elbows, put your fingertips on your shoulders. Rotate your shoulders and elbows clockwise, then counter clockwise, as if drawing large circles with both elbows. Repeat in each direction.
  • Leg circles. Hold onto a chair or other sturdy object for balance. Lift one leg straight behind you, keeping both knees straight. Rotate your leg clockwise, then counter clockwise, as if drawing small circles with your foot. (You should feel the movement at your hip joint). Repeat in each direction, with each leg.

Every exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase and a cool-down.

  • Warm-up. This helps your body adjust slowly from rest to exercise. A warm-up reduces the stress on your heart and muscles, slowly increases your breathing, circulation (heart rate) and body temperature. It also helps improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The best warm-up includes stretching, range of motion activities and the beginning of the activity at a low intensity level.
  • Conditioning. This follows the warm-up. During the conditioning phase, the benefits of exercise are gained and calories are burned. Be sure to monitor the intensity of the activity (check your heart rate). Don’t overdo it.
  • Cool-down. This is the last phase of your exercise session. It allows your body to gradually recover from the conditioning phase. Your heart rate and blood pressure will return to near resting values. Cool-down does not mean to sit down! In fact, do not sit, stand still or lie down right after exercise. This may cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded or have heart palpitations (fluttering in your chest). The best cool-down is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity. You may also do some of the same stretching activities you did in the warm-up phase.

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