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6 Best Warm-Up Exercises for Your Upper Body

Woman doing a plank outdoors.
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Before any kind of upper body-focused workout, it’s important to warm up those muscles, lubricate the joints, and get the blood flowing, supplying your cells with oxygen. This will not only prevent injuries and possible muscle strains but also improve muscle gains and aid in recovery.

Many people skip their warm-up due to time constrictions, believing it will take too much out of their workout they were barely even able to fit into their busy schedule. But, in reality, all it really takes is 5-10 minutes and you’ll set yourself up for a more efficient workout.

Arm Circles

Come into a comfortable seat on your mat, kneeling or sitting cross-legged. Bring your arms straight beside you, making a capital T shape with your body. Straighten your arms as far as they will go and start making arm circles in a clockwise direction. You can make them as small or as large as you want, feeling the blood rush through them and warm them up.

Do 10 circles in one direction and then do another 10 counterclockwise, lubricating your joints and feeling your range of motion increase.

Yoga Mat

This extra-thick yoga mat will keep your joints cushioned.

Knee Push-Ups

Come into a plank position, palms right under your shoulders and legs extended behind you. Bring your knees to the floor and make sure your hips are in a neutral position. Inhale and bend your elbows, bringing your torso towards the floor, aiming for the chin to come an inch off the floor. 

Exhale and push your body back up to a plank, activating your core muscles and expanding the space in between your shoulder blades. Inhale and lower your torso. Exhale and push yourself back up. Repeat five to 10 times.

Workout Gloves

Non-grip gloves to help stabilize you in every exercise.

Cobra Pose

Lie on the floor, belly facing down. Place your palms right next to your chest and press the tops of your feet firmly into the floor. Activate your thighs by rotating them towards each other and on your next inhale, push your palms into the floor and lift your chest up. 

Keep your hips on the floor and either gaze forward or look up if it feels good in your shoulders and neck muscles. Exhale and slowly return to the floor. Do two more lifts and try to go a little bit further into your backend on every inhale. On your last exhale, bring your forehead to the floor and stay for a few breaths to reset.

Fitness Towel

Wipes off your sweat and cools you at the same time.

Side Stretches

Sit on your mat in a comfortable position, either kneeling or cross-legged, and bring your arms over your head. Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms as high as they can go without lifting your shoulders. 

Take a big inhale and on your exhale, start bending to the right, stretching the entire left side of your body, from your hip to the tips of your fingertips. Keep breathing through your stretch and ensure both shoulders are away from your ears. Stay for three long breath cycles and on your last exhale, slowly come back to the center. Take a big inhale and repeat everything on the other side.

This pose is great for warming up your obliques and back muscles, sending fresh blood and oxygen straight into your muscle cells.

Stretching Strap

Helps you get into a deeper stretch.

Plank Holds

Come into a basic plank, stacking your shoulders on top of your wrists and pushing your palms firmly into the floor. Extend your legs straight behind you and come high on the balls of your feet. Activate your quadriceps and engage your core muscles, feeling them support your hips and lower back. 

Make sure your hips are in a neutral position, preventing them from dropping down or lifting up. Deepen your breath and feel your body warm up with every holding second. Stay in this position for as long as you can while maintaining your posture and if it starts feeling too challenging, come down to your forearms and push them firmly into the floor.

Yoga towel

Non-slip yoga towel to help you withstand even the sweatiest workouts.

Cat and Cow Stretches

Come into an all-fours position, stacking your joints on top of each other. Your wrists should be right under your shoulders and knees right under your hips. Press your palms into the floor and push the ground away from you. Engage your abs and bring your spine in a neutral position, elongated from your sacrum to the base of your skull. 

Inhale, drop your belly down and look up, creating a big curve in your spine and stretching your chest. Exhale and bring your chin to your chest, stretching your spine and creating compression in your front side body. With every inhale try to go further into the natural curve of your spine and with every exhale, try to compress your body as much as you can, articulating your spine and sending fresh blood into every cell of your spinal muscles.

Go for three to five long inhales and exhales, warming up your spine for any kind of exercise you’re about to do.

Yoga blocks

Make your stretches more accessible.

Warming up is an essential part of any type of exercise, but so is the cooldown, so don’t skip it! These awesome post-workout stretches will help you increase flexibility and improve your range of motion.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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