10 Trainer-Approved Warm-Up Exercises for Leg Day

Sport & Activity

Warming up prepares you for your workout, helping to boost performance and prevent injury. Here's the ultimate warm-up for your next leg day.

Last updated: 12 October 2022
6 min read
Trainer-approved Leg Day Warm-up Routines to Try

Whether you love or hate leg day, odds are you'd like to get to work as soon as you get to the gym. However, starting with a leg-day warm-up will make your session more effective.

"An effective warm-up for leg day is going to prepare your body for your workout, so you can maximise performance while also reducing your risk of injury", said Jake Harcoff, MS, CSCS, a certified kinesiologist in Langley, British Columbia.

Experts explain the magic that happens during a warm-up—and offer a leg-day warm-up routine you won't want to skip.

The Benefits of a Leg-day Warm-up

An effective leg-day warm-up typically includes light cardio and exercises that mimic the movements you'll be doing in the workout. This combination increases body temperature, activates your muscles and mobilises your joints, Harcoff said.

As the body heats up, blood passes through the heated muscles. This warms up the blood, which helps haemoglobin (a protein responsible for carrying oxygen) release oxygen to the working tissues, said Mark Shropshire, a certified Original Strength master instructor. The more oxygen that's delivered to the muscles means a greater potential to squat, lunge and deadlift.

Warming up the body has the added perk of increasing synovial fluid in the joints. "Synovial fluid is like a lubricant that helps the joints move more freely", Shropshire said. The better your joints can move, the better they'll be able to achieve the range of motion needed during certain movements.

But a warm-up engages more than your joints and muscles—it also enlists your nervous system. "Your nervous system responds to a warm-up by connecting your brain to your body via the movements you're doing", Shropshire said.

After a long day (or night) of minimal movement, the connection between your brain and body becomes dulled. "By engaging in patterns of movement that mimic the patterns you'll be using in the workout, the nervous system is better prepared and will execute those patterns more efficiently when you load them", Shropshire said.

Trainer-Approved Leg-Day Warm-Up Moves to Try

This routine from Shropshire will take about 15 minutes. Use it to warm up your leg muscles and prep your body for leg day. Do one set of each movement for the suggested repetitions or time.

  1. 1.Diaphragmatic Breathing

    • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
    • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your ribcage.
    • Close your eyes and slowly inhale through your nose so your stomach expands and the hand below your ribcage rises. The hand on your chest shouldn't move much.
    • Tighten your abdominal muscles and exhale the air from your diaphragm through pursed lips. You should feel the hand below your ribcage lower as you exhale; the hand on your upper chest should remain still.
    • Repeat. Continue for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. 2.Head Nods

    • Lie on your stomach. Bring your forearms to the floor in front of your shoulders and stack your hands.
    • Begin with your forehead on top of your hands. Then, gently lift your head to look up; only lift your head as far as is comfortable.
    • Gently return your forehead to your hands and repeat. Do 15 to 20 reps.
    • Keep your jaw closed and your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Remember to breathe.
  3. 3.Head Turns

    • Still lying on your stomach, raise your head so you're looking forwards.
    • Gently move your head from side to side; only turn your head as far as is comfortable.
    • Keep your jaw closed and your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Remember to breathe.
    • Do 10 to 15 reps in total.
  4. 4.Glute Bridge

    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
    • Engage your abs, push your feet into the floor and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips.
    • Your knees, hips and shoulders should be aligned at the top of the lift.
    • Lower your hips to the floor with control. Do 20 to 30 reps.
    • If bodyweight glute bridges aren't challenging, try looping a small resistance band around both thighs, just above the knees.

    (Related: 7 Variations of Glute Bridges That Will Shake Up Your Next Workout)

  5. 5.Light Cardio

    Perform your preferred cardio activity for 5 minutes. Spend 2 minutes at an easy effort and 3 minutes at a higher-intensity effort. However, don't work at such a high intensity that you become fatigued or out of breath. Aim for an intensity of 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 is sitting on the sofa and 10 is an all-out sprint). A few cardio options include walking, jogging, rowing, using the elliptical machine, cycling, star jumps or skipping.

  6. 6.Dead Bug

    • Lie on your back with your arms extended above your chest, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    • Press your lower back into the floor and lift both knees until your shins are parallel to the floor.
    • Tighten your abdominals and slowly lower one arm towards the floor alongside your ear while you straighten the opposite leg.
    • Keep your core muscles engaged without allowing your lower back to peel off the floor.
    • Return your limbs to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do 20 reps in total.
  7. 7.Bird Dog

    • Get into a quadruped position with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
    • Brace your core and lift one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg behind you to form a straight line from the top of your head to your extended foot.
    • Keep your hips squared to the ground.
    • Hold briefly before returning your hand and knee to the floor.
    • Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do 20 reps in total.
  8. 8.Stationary Marching

    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
    • Drive the right knee up so it's bent 90 degrees and touch your knee with your left hand.
    • Keep your back straight; don't bend forwards to touch your knee.
    • Return to the starting stance and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do 20 reps in total.
    • To progress the movement, lift the knee higher to touch it with your opposite forearm.
  9. 9.Lateral Mini-Band Steps

    • Wrap a mini band around both thighs (just above your knees) and stand with your feet hip-width apart; you should feel mild-to-moderate tension in the band.
    • Lower into a quarter-squat. Engage your outer thigh muscles and glutes to step the left foot out to the left.
    • Follow with the right foot so your feet are hip-width apart again. Repeat. Do 20 steps in each direction.
    • Avoid rocking motions as you side-step.
  10. 10.Mini-Band Monster Walk

    • With the mini band still around your thighs, widen your stance so your feet are shoulder-width apart.
    • Lower into a quarter-squat. Engage your outer thigh muscles and glutes, and step the left foot forwards and out to the side.
    • Then, step the right foot forward and out to the side. Continue walking forwards by taking big steps, keeping your feet as wide apart as you can. Do 20 steps in total.
    • Then, walk backwards in the same way. Do 20 steps in total.

    Words by Lauren Bedosky

Trainer-approved Leg Day Warm-up Routines to Try

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Originally published: 3 October 2022

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