I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with leg day. On the one hand it’s something I really don’t look forward too but when I’m done. Man, I love that feeling. Adding a leg day warm up into my routine has changed my workouts for good! A few years back I tore my ACL and had it repaired which was a major setback in my fitness journey. But along the way I picked up on a few great leg day warm up exercises to get me prepared for the workout ahead. It’s really important to do a proper warmup before starting your workout to reduce the risk of injury.
Here are some leg day warm up exercises that I often do to prepare my lower body for a challenging workout.
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Why should you warm up before starting your leg day workout?
Warming up before leg day is not just a suggestion; it’s an important in ensuring a safe and effective workout. When you engage in lower body exercises, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are put under significant stress. Without a proper warm up, you are more likely to get an injury which can take quite some time to heal and have major setbacks in your fitness journey.
A well-designed warm up routine gradually increases your heart rate, enhances blood flow to your muscles, and raises your core body temperature. This process primes your body for the intense leg workout ahead, making your muscles more pliable and less prone to strains or tears.
A warm-up also prepares your nervous system for the physical demands of your workout, improving muscle coordination and power output. Besides, I use my warm up sessions to get me properly pumped up for the workout ahead. On those days you have to drag yourself up to do your workout, put on your favorite song and warm up. When you’re done, you’ll be glad you decided to do the workout in the first place.
Exercises for a leg day warm up.
These are some of my go-to leg day warmup exercises. Most of these have different variations that can be done to spice up your workout and get you pumped for your workout session ahead. As we all know leg exercises are pretty important to get a well rounded figure and these warmup exercises are a perfect leg day kickstarter!
1. Jumping Jacks.
Jumping jacks are a fantastic addition to your leg day warmup routine, offering a multitude of benefits to prepare your body for the upcoming workout. These dynamic exercises help increase your heart rate, boost circulation, and warm up your core and lower body muscles. I usually add a set of ankle weights to my warm up to make it slightly more challenging, especially if my workout isn’t lower body focused.
To perform a basic jumping jack, start with your feet together and arms at your sides. Then, jump while simultaneously spreading your legs shoulder-width apart and raising your arms overhead. Return to the starting position with another jump, bringing your feet together and lowering your arms. Repeat this motion for 2-3 sets of 30 seconds each.
- Seal Jacks: Clap your hands in front instead of over your head.
- Side-to-Side Jacks: Jump laterally to engage different muscle groups.
2. Leg Swings.
Leg swings offer several benefits to prepare your lower body for a challenging workout. These dynamic stretches help improve hip flexibility and mobility, crucial for exercises like squats and lunges.
To perform leg swings, find a stable surface to hold onto for balance, stand tall, and swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled manner. Start with a few sets of 10-15 swings per leg to gradually increase blood flow and loosen up the hip flexors and hamstrings.
- Side to Side Leg Swings: Swing your leg horizontally instead of front to back.
3. Hip Circles.
Hip circles are a great leg day warm up to enhance hip mobility and prepare your lower body for the demands of intense leg exercises.
To perform hip circles, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands on your hips, and begin making circular motions with your hips, both clockwise and counterclockwise. These gentle rotations help lubricate the hip joints, improve flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury during leg-focused workouts.
Start with 2-3 sets of 10-15 rotations in each direction, gradually increasing the range of motion as you warm up.
- Standing hip figure eights: Move your hips in a figure of eight motion.
- Seated hip circles: Make circular motions with your hips while seated for a different angle of engagement.
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4. Bodyweight Squats.
Bodyweight squats should never be skipped on leg day. These squats serve as a fantastic way to activate your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, setting the stage for a safe and productive workout.
To perform bodyweight squats, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, engage your core, and lower your body by bending your knees and pushing your hips back. Aim to keep your back straight and your knees aligned with your feet as you lower yourself toward the ground. Then, return to the starting position by pushing through your heels.
Start with 2 sets of 10-15 reps to warm up your leg muscles and reinforce proper squatting form. I always use squats to warm up and as a bonus, I get a bit more glute training in!
- Pulse squats: Starting the same as a normal squat, stay down in the squat position and slightly bounce up and down without coming fully up.
- Jump Squats: The same as a normal squat, instead of just coming upright, push off of the ground into a jump movement.
Lunges can significantly enhance your lower body’s readiness for intense workouts. These movements target each leg individually, helping improve balance and flexibility while activating the major muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
To perform stationary lunges, stand with your feet hip-width apart, take a step forward with one foot, and lower your body by bending both knees to about a 90-degree angle. Ensure your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes. Push through your front heel to return to the starting position.
Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-12 lunges per leg.
- Walking lunges: Instead of just a simple up and down, try these in a walking motion.
- Reverse Lunges: From the standing position, move your leg backward into the lunge position.
- Side Lunges: Lunge from side to side.
6. Leg Raises.
Leg raises work great as a leg day warm up to engage your core and warm up your hip flexors.
To perform leg raises, lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs straight. Lift one leg off the ground while keeping it as straight as possible and raising it toward the ceiling. Lower it back down to just above the ground without touching, then repeat with the other leg.
Continue alternating legs for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
- Flutter Kicks: While lifting your legs off the ground, make small kicking movements with your feet.
- Scissor Kicks: While in the leg lift position make big movements alternating your legs like a scissor.
- Cross-Overs: Keep your legs off the ground and move your legs over one another.
7. Calf Raises.
Calf raises targets the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and lower leg.
To perform calf raises, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and the balls of your feet on the edge of a step or a raised surface, with your heels hanging off the edge. Hold onto a stable support for balance if needed. Slowly raise your heels as high as you can by contracting your calf muscles, then lower them below the level of the step to get a good stretch. Again, ankle weights are a really good addition to this warm up to make it more effective.
Aim for 2 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
8. Glute Bridges.
Glute bridges focuses on activating your glutes and lower back muscles during your leg day warm up.
To perform a basic glute bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your arms at your sides, palms facing down. Push through your heels, engage your glutes, and lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then lower your hips back down.
Aim for 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
- Single-leg glute bridges: Working exactly the same as above, only with a single leg.
- Elevated glute bridges: Place your feet on an elevated surface and do a normal glute bridge.
9. Ankle Circles.
Ankle circles might seem like a subtle addition to your leg day warm up, but their benefits are far-reaching. These simple movements help improve ankle mobility, a factor often overlooked but critical for proper leg workouts.
To perform ankle circles, sit or stand with your feet flat on the ground. Lift one foot slightly off the floor and rotate your ankle clockwise for 10-15 seconds, then switch to a counterclockwise rotation.
Remember, the key to a successful leg day warm up is to gradually increase the intensity. Start with lighter exercises and progress to more challenging ones as your muscles become warmer and more flexible.
A well-executed warm up not only reduces the risk of injury but also enhances your performance during the main leg workout, allowing you to reach your fitness goals safely and effectively.
So, before you dive into those squats and lunges, invest the time in a thorough leg day warm up to maximize your gains and minimize the aches!
Happy Warming Up,
Your Wellness Warrior!