man doing bodyweight lunge | leg day warm up

6 Exercises for an Effective Leg Day Warm-Up

By Jenessa Connor

If you've been skipping your leg day warm-up, it may feel like you're saving time that you can spend on a few extra reps. But by forgoing a lower body warm-up, you may actually be shortchanging your gains and increasing your risk for injury.

A quick warm-up not only increases blood flow to the muscles — a boon for soft tissue extensibility and muscle-building contractions — but also sends a signal to the brain that the body is about to work, explains Michael Julom, CPT, founder of ThisIsWhyImFit.

This can help make muscles and joints less prone to injury, he adds.

Setting aside 10 to 15 minutes to warm up at the beginning of a leg day workout is a worthy investment — just make sure your warm-up is specific to your programming.

Not sure what that should look like? The list of exercises below will help you get the most out of you leg day warm-up.

"It involves each of the muscles you'll be working in pretty much any leg day workout imaginable," Julom says. "The joints, muscles, and brain get prepared for work."

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1. Quick Walk or Jog

man walking on treadmill | leg day warm up

Think of this as a sort of warm-up for the warm-up. A brief walk or jog — even just 10 minutes — gets the blood pumping, warms up the body's tissues, and can help you get in the right headspace to lift. This is especially helpful if you've been sitting in front of a computer all day or just woke up for an early-morning workout.

Julom's hack? "I park my car in the farthest space from the gym and walk in," he says.


2. Forward Leg Swing

forward leg swing | leg day warm up

Both forward and lateral leg swings activate the hips and glutes. "Start with a small range of motion and move the leg intentionally rather than letting momentum swing the leg like a pendulum," Julom advises.

  • Stand tall with your feet together and your arms out to your sides or gripping a stable surface next to you for balance.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg and raise your right leg off the floor.
  • Swing your right leg forward until your thigh is parallel with the floor, then swing it behind you as far as you comfortably can. Continue swinging back and forth for 30 seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat, completing three sets per side.


3. Lateral Leg Swing

lateral leg swing | leg day warm up
  • Stand tall with your feet together and your arms extended out to your sides or gripping a stable surface in front of you for balance.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg and raise your right leg out to your right side.
  • Keeping your chest lifted, core braced, and back flat, swing your right leg back and forth in front of your left leg. Continue for 30 seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat, completing three sets per side.


4. Supported Squat

trx squat | leg day warm up

"The supported squat loosens the knees and hips, warms up all the constituent muscles, and places no load on the lumbar spine," Julom says. "It's perfect because it begins with supporting all the bodyweight with the arms, allowing the knees and hips to flex and extend unloaded. Gradually transfer the support from the arms to the legs by reducing the tension on whatever you're holding onto."

  • Secure a suspension trainer or strong resistance tubing to an overhead anchor point. If you don't have access to a suspension trainer or tubing, you can hold onto a squat rack or a heavy piece of equipment for support.
  • Gripping a handle with each hand, stand facing the anchor point with your feet about hip-width apart. Make sure you're far enough away from the anchor point to have tension on the straps.
  • Using the straps to support your weight, bend your knees, push your hips back, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back flat and your core braced.
  • Push through the feet to return to a standing position.
  • Perform three sets of 10 reps. After the first set, gradually begin to transfer the resistance from your arms to your legs.


5. Good Morning

good morning exercise | leg day warm up

If you plan to deadlift, bodyweight good mornings are a must. They help reinforce a proper hip hinge movement while activating the hamstrings and glutes. "Pay special attention to squeezing the glutes," Julom says.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your fingertips gently behind your ears.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, maintain a slight bend in the knees as you push your hips back and hinge at the hips, lowering your torso until it is nearly parallel to the floor or you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes as you bring your hips forward.
  • Perform three sets of 10 reps.


6. Walking Lunge

lunge | leg day warm up

Walking lunges fire up the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves while actively stretching the hip extensors. "Start with a limited range of motion," Julom says. "Once the hips and knees are loose, increase your stride length and depth as desired."

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Keeping your chest lifted, shoulders back, core braced, and back flat, take a large step forward with your right foot, lowering your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and both knees bend to 90 degrees. Your front knee should be tracking in line with your ankle, and your knee should not be past your toes.
  • Push into your front foot, driving down through your right heel as you bring your left foot forward to return to a standing position.
  • Lunge forward again, this time with your left foot. Continue alternating legs, performing 8 to 10 lunges on each side. Complete three sets.


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