The traditional view of stretching before workouts has changed over the years. It is no longer believed absolutely necessary to stretch all of the major muscle groups before a workout. Instead, concentrate specifically on the muscles that will be working out during your training session. The paradigm shift lies in the way we view our warm up. Instead of stretching tight muscles, we are encouraged to gently warm them with a light exercise which slowly yet effectively engages muscles and tendons.
Most experts agree that a muscle warm up specific to the areas that you are going to target during your exercise routine is the goal, but a basic heart rate raising activity is effective, too. Choose some form of cardiovascular exercise to engage in for at least 10 minutes.
Another option is to simply just choose a lower intensity version of your workout to target a specific muscle area. The goal is to increase joint lubrication, blood flow and muscle temperature so that the muscles are able to stretch and function optimally. Once you choose the activity according to your workout, do several light repetitions of the exercise or activity.
For example, if you're going to run, start out with a walk or light jog. If you're going weight train your arms or legs, choose light exercise of the area that engages those muscle groups. Once you have completed your 10-minute warm up, you can progress to light stretching or commence your workout routine.
Shoulder Circles: Rotate shoulders one at a time toward the front. Repeat both sides with shoulders rotating back.
Arm Circles: Standing with arms extended to the sides, circle them at shoulder height. Start with 10 each front and back. Create large and small circles for different sets.
Wall Push-ups: Place hands on a wall shoulder width apart and legs together. Keep your body straight as you bend your elbows. Continue until your nose almost touches the wall and repeat. You can increase the intensity by placing your feet farther away from the wall. This exercise puts less pressure on the arms than a usual push up, yet is successful at engaging the back, chest and arm muscles.
Tricep Dips: Find a stable bench chair and position your hands with palms side down about shoulder length apart. Slowly bend at your elbows and lower yourself down until you arms are at a 90-degree angle. Always keep a little bend in your elbows.
Bicep Curls (with light weights): Begin with feet about hip width apart. Hold light weights or soup cans in front of you with elbows bent and waist high. Bring weight toward the shoulders. When you lower the weights, keep a slight bend in the elbows. Repeat 1-3 sets of reps.
Walking: Still touted as one of the best exercises you can do, it's also one of the easiest and most relaxing. Use it for a warm-up for any fitness routine.
Squats: Imagine getting up and sitting down in a chair. First use a chair to simulate the motion of getting up and sitting down. Don't sit all of the way, just tap your bottom. Eventually you can perform squats using the same motion, without the chair.
Easy Chair Leg Lifts: Sit in a chair with legs positioned just slightly apart. Bend the knee and lift the leg up. Exhale as you lift. Inhale as you return to the starting point with your both feet on the floor. Perform this exercise by alternating legs.
Wall-sits: While leaning against a wall, bend your legs at a right angle like you are sitting in a chair. Keep your abs contracted while holding the position for 20-60 seconds. Stand up take a short break as needed and then repeat.