Pre-Workout Stretches: Preventing Injury, Pain and Strains…

pre-workout stretches

For some people, there are many reasons why it can be tempting to skip warm-up sessions prior to going to the gym for your main workout.

Sometimes there are time constraints; maybe you don’t even like the idea of doing stretches before your actual workouts – you just want to get the workout behind you.

Some people don’t even agree that pre-workout stretching is really that necessary and safe and you can even boost your workouts with some pre-workout supplements.

 What’s a Warm-up Anyways?

Warming-up pre-workout stretches prepare the muscles for the exercises that are coming.

When you are sedentary or seated the muscles contract or become shorter because of your position in the chair.

So when you start moving, the muscles get longer as they stretch into their new position.

And if the change from sitting to moving is sudden, you are at risk for injury.

Pre-workout stretches help the body to prepare for the demands of the chosen exercises that you are going to do.

It is essential prior to exercise.

A warm-up literally does warm the body up so that your ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joints become more mobile and flexible.

This improves your performance and prevents injury.

Static stretching that you learned as a kid doesn’t cut it for warming up before a workout.

They don’t replicate the motions and actions that you are going to do later.

Your warm-up stretches should involve dynamic stretching that increases motion, muscle length, and circulation.

There are benefits to these warm-up stretches too.

Let’s just look-see quickly:

  • They increase body temperature which improves oxygen delivery to the muscles
  • They improve your workout performance
  • They improve body flexibility
  • They may prevent you from sustaining an injury
  • They help you to prepare mentally and physically for your workout

So without further ado, let’s check out five incredible workout stretches that will warm you up for whatever routine you had in mind.

Maybe a yoga mat will be a good idea for comfort. Don’t worry, we show you exactly how you do the dynamic stretches.

5 Essential Pre & Post Workout Stretches

Pre-Workout Exercises

1) Child’s Pose

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In 2013, a study found that regular yoga improved the quality of sleep for people receiving treatment for their cancer.

Child’s Pose was one of the positions that were included in this research [1].

  • Start off in a kneeling position on your mat. Knees should be at hip distance apart – feet together behind you.
  • Inhale deeply as you exhale.
  • Lay your torso over your thighs. As you do this, press your butt onto your heels with your arms reaching forward. As you are doing this, lengthen your neck and spine by moving your ribs away from your tail bone. Move the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
  • Now rest your forehead on the mat.
  • Rest your forehead on the mat, holding for three full breaths.

What health benefits are there?

  • It helps to open up the back and shoulders.
  • It helps to stretch your stiff, sore, and tired limbs.
  • Child’s pose stretching soothes the entire body, and your shoulders, ankles, and thighs will benefit the most.
  • It boosts your circulation.
  • It aids digestion.
  • Child’s Pose stimulates blood flow to your head, helping oxygen reach all the corners of your body.
  • You might want to lock your office door, but if your body is feeling achy and tight, drop to the floor and do a Child’s Pose just for a minute and see how loosened up you feel.

2) Cat-Cow

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The Cat-Cow pose is extremely helpful if you spend way too much time sitting at your desk all day.

One research study says that when you live a sedentary type of a lifestyle, you are likely to experience health problems.

This is because your metabolism is slow and your blood flow has been impeded.

You might already know all about back pain from sitting too much; it’s the king of office chair problems. 

Cat-Cow can help with that. 

  • Start off in a table-top position. Your shoulders should be stacked directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  • Now slowly breathe in. As you breathe out, round your spine and drop your head toward the floor – as you lift your belly button towards the ceiling. This is the cat pose.
  • As you breathe in again, lift your head, your chest, and your tailbone toward the ceiling whilst arching your lower back. This is the cow-pose.
  • Do this three times, performing controlled, slow  reps

What health benefits are there?

  • These stretches are ideal for those with back pain.
  • Your balance and posture are improved.
  • Your neck and spine are stretched and strengthened, as well as your hips, back, and abdomen.
  • Co-ordination is increased.
  • It stimulates and massages the organs of your stomach such as the adrenal glands and the kidneys.
  • Emotional balance is improved as stress is relieved and the mind is calmed.

3) Donkey Kick

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This stretching exercise [3] is very aptly named because that’s what it mimics, the kick of the donkey!

It is superb for isolating the glute muscle called the gluteus maximus.

But it also works the core and shoulders.

  • Start in the all-fours position. Your knees will be under your hips, your wrists under your shoulders – with your core engaged.
  • With your knee bent and your right foot flexed, kick your right leg up toward the ceiling – then pause at the top. If your lower back gets sore with arching, make sure your spine is at a neutral position.
  • Now return your right knee to the floor. That’s one rep.
  • Perform five of these in a slow and controlled rep on each leg, repeating on the other side.

What health benefits are there?

  • They are ideal for toning and stability.
  • They work your shoulder muscles and core.
  • This exercise is outstanding for the desk-job person because it helps to stretch the hip in the opposite direction of how you hold the hip when you sit. So the movement kind of counteracts all the sedentary sitting in the chair.
  • Posture is improved.

4) Bird-Dog Crunch

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Basically, bird-dog dynamic stretching exercises [4] are bodyweight moves.

It involves you getting down on all fours; the table-top position, and then extending one arm and the opposite leg.

That might sound pretty simple, right? But actually, you will see that it is actually more challenging than it looks.

If you do it right, you will work out your entire core and a whole bunch of other muscles as well. It combines stability, balance, mobility, and strength work.

  • Start on your hands and knees in the table-top position. Your wrists must be stacked under your shoulders; your knees stacked under your hips.
  • Now extend your left arm forward – the pic shows the right arm, but it’s just to illustrate. Your right leg should go back. Keep your back flat with your hips in line with the floor.
  • Squeeze your abs, drawing your left elbow and right knee – they should meet near the center of your body.
  • Now reverse the movement by extending your arm and leg back out, keeping your right foot flexed the entire exercise. That’s the full rep.
  • Do three slow, controlled reps on each side. Have an optional five-second hold with each leg and arm extension. 

What health benefits are there?

  • Stability is improved.
  • Lower back pain is relieved.
  • The core, back muscles, and hips are strengthened.
  • Helps to promote better posture and increases range of motion.

5) Down Dog to Runner’s Lunge

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The down dog to runner’s lunge [5] is a stretch that works the inner thighs, the hip flexors, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

In yoga, this exercise is known as the crescent lunge.

It is a very common warm-up stretch in yoga sequences. It is not only for runners though, or for the yogis. 

You reap the benefits by adapting this lunge into your pre-workout warmups.

  • You start on your knees and hands. Your hands are stacked under your shoulders. Your knees are stacked under your hips.
  • Then spread your hands wide, pressing your thumb and index finger into the floor.
  • Now lift your tailbone, pressing your butt up and back, whilst drawing your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your legs straight as best you can, pressing your heels gently toward the floor. The head needs to be between the arms, facing the knees. Your back should be flat.
  • Pause for a moment, shifting your weight forward into a plank, stepping your right foot outside your right hand. (watch video)
  • Raise your torso so you assume a low lunge position, squeezing your glutes so the stretch is increased in your back leg’s hip. That completes one rep. Do three slow and controlled reps before switching sides.

What health benefits are there?

  • The stretches stretch out the calves, ankles, quads, hamstrings, and the groin – a great warm-up to get a full body-workout.
  • The stretches improve flexibility and balance. The Down dog to runners lunge improves mental strength because it works on the consciousness of the mind.
  • They also help to relieve chronic pain in the hips, legs, lower back, and relieve the pain of the sciatica nerve.
  • Improves awareness and concentration.
  • Organs and stimulation: Down dog to runners lunge puts just slight pressure on the abdominal organs and actually stimulates them. Blood circulation is increased.


The National Strength and Conditioning Association [6] recommends that athletes and fitness enthusiasts should do pre-workout warming stretches prior to their main workout session.

It is because it prepares the muscles – it takes them through wider ranges of motions, warming up the body.

This is apparently way more than what static stretching provides.

It is thought that if you do static stretch before your workout routine, you might even reduce your strength, explosiveness, and power for the routine afterward.

Pre-workout stretches take muscles through a wider range of motion.

They warm up the body more than static stretching will ever do.

Plus, doing static stretches before a workout may even reduce your strength, power, and explosiveness for the coming routine. 

Marcia Denis, who is a physical therapist and certified yoga teacher, says that no matter whether you are a strength athlete, a runner, or whatever, warm-ups are very important.

They are necessary to prime the body for movement.

They also give you the opportunity to check out how you cope and how you are, both physically and mentally.

That preparation will help to prevent injury and help you to get in tune with any pre-existing strains, aches, and pains.

You are prepared for the workout that’s coming up. 

So for example, if your shoulder was feeling all tight and aching from the way you slept the night before, then you might want to add in some of these gentle pre-working-out stretches to that specific area.

That will increase your mobility even before you get started.

Pre-workout warm-up stretches ease you into a movement to prepare you for whatever routine you have planned.

These stretches focus on the full body movements that work on your glutes, core, spine, hamstring, hip flexors, shoulders, and back.

Warm-ups are actually designed to be easy.

They are not meant to be like a strenuous workout.

So if during your stretching exercises you feel your heart rate is increasing at a rapid pace, or you are getting out of breath, just taper down on the intensity.

The thing is, warm-ups shouldn’t be stressful and wear out your muscles so that you feel exhausted.

They should be easy and specifically aimed at the main movements you had in mind for your workout.

Do the stretches at a comfy pace, and modify them if you want, keeping the movements fluid and smooth – because ‘stretching exercises promote flexibility, so you can move fluidly.’