We can’t blame you for wanting to skip the fitness foreplay and go straight into your sport, especially when time is limited. But the hurried approach does more than just slow your first few miles or stiffen your reps. When you drop the hammer before your body is ready, at best you’re limiting your performance potential; at worst, you’re putting yourself at much greater risk for injury, according to researchers at the University of Alabama.
Many people skip the warm-up because they assume an effective routine must also be a long one. But science tells us that’s just not the case. The right set of moves can prep and prime your body in just five minutes, says Doug Kechijian, co-founder of Resilient Performance Physical Therapy, in New York City. “An ideal warm-up elevates your heart rate and body temperature, allows you to move better during your activity, and gets your system ready to fire,” he explains.
Kechijian has worked with every type of athlete in the book, from Special Forces soldiers and NBA stars to professional outdoorspeople and amateur gym-goers. He says the majority of people dream up and then abandon complicated warm-ups. In reality, he says, most of us have the same tight areas and benefit from the same drills, so a one-size-fits-all routine is more feasible than you might think. Kechijian pulled the six most-powerful moves from his arsenal and bundled them into your new no-excuses warm-up routine. Move through the set continuously before jumping into your workout.
Lateral Lunge Windmill
What It Does: Improves your side-to-side movement—something most people neglect—while opening up your shoulders and chest to facilitate deep, controlled breaths.
How to Do It: Spread your legs about twice shoulder-width apart, feet pointing straight. Shift your hips and torso to your right so your left leg is outstretched and your right knee is bent 90 degrees, similar to a forward-facing side lunge. Place your left hand flat on the floor to the inside of your right foot as you twist your torso and reach your right hand as high as possible. Reverse the move, and repeat to the left. Do eight reps on each side.
What It Does: Loosens your hips, hamstrings, and calves and elevates your heart rate.
How to Do It: Start from standard push-up position. Keep your palms on the floor and legs straight as you slowly walk your feet toward your hands. Stop when your heels are flat on the ground, keeping the shoulders over your hands. Your body should look like an upside-down U or V. Pause, then walk legs back until you return to the push-up position. That’s one rep. Tip: if you can’t reach the point where your heels are flat and legs are straight, elevate your hands on a low box or step. Complete eight reps.
What It Does: Lengthens and stretches quads while opening up hips. Particularly effective for cyclists, runners, and hikers, who are especially prone to injuries in these areas.
How to Do It: Place the soles of your feet against a wall, a box, or the upper cushion of your couch. (Place a cushion under your knee if you’re on a hard floor.) Slide your left leg up the wall, bringing your knee to the corner where the floor meets the wall so that your shin is flush with the wall, as if you’re in a standing quad stretch. Draw your right leg into a lunge-like position in front of you, with your knee bent 90 degrees and shin vertical. Hold that position while contracting your left hamstring for one second. Release. That’s one rep. Do 20, and then switch legs. If you’re too tight to get into this position without falling forward, balance yourself by holding onto something like a vertical foam roller.
Half-Kneeling Airplane Windmill
What It Does: Generates energy in your hips and torso so you can move more efficiently from side to side.
How to Do It: Get into a half-kneeling position, right knee out front, bent 90 degrees, and left knee on the ground, bent 90 degrees with the shin to the floor. Twist your torso in toward your knee—right shoulder toward left knee—and lower toward the ground. Use your left forearm to brace the approach to the floor. Return to start. That’s one rep. Do eight reps, and then repeat on the other side.
Rock-Back Lat Mobilization
What It Does: Stretches your lats (near your upper back) to mobilize your shoulders and core.
How to Do It: Get on all fours. Place your elbows on the floor about three inches in front of your knees. Push your elbows into the floor and raise your forearms. Try to curve your upper back as much as you can. Push your hips back toward your feet. As you do so, you should feel a stretch in your upper back and lats. That’s one rep. Do 20 reps.
What It Does: This drill fires up your nervous system and switches on your fast-twitch muscles, helping you blast out of the starting gate.
How to Do It: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Jump vertically. That’s one rep. Jump again immediately after you land, trying to jump as quickly as possible rather than as high as possible. Do ten reps.