6 Dynamic Warm Up Exercises for Legs to Do Before a Run



Your run session should never begin with the run itself. It’s essential to slowly warm up your muscles before your run to ensure optimal performance and minimize your risk of injury.

There are a variety of different exercises and movements that you can do to warm up your lower body before your run. If you’re wondering what they are, you’ve come to the right place. 

Keep reading to discover six leg warm-up exercises, and find out why it’s so important to warm up properly before your run. 

Why Warm Up Exercises for Legs Are Essential

Warm-up exercises for legs before running are important, first and foremost, to prevent injury while running.

Warming up loosens your joints and increases blood flow to your muscles. This makes it less likely that they’ll rip or tear in a way that is detrimental to your run and health. 

Other reasons why warming up before running is crucial include the following:

  • Improves oxygen flow
  • Accelerates the rate of recovery
  • Adds to your mental preparation

In other words, warming up is key to becoming a better runner. With all these benefits, it doesn’t make sense not to warm up before your run. Now let’s talk about how exactly you should be warming up.

Top 6 Warm Up Exercises for Legs

There are a variety of different warm up exercises for legs that will help improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury.

Below are the top six leg warm-up exercises that ensure each muscle group is warmed and ready to go before you take off on your run!

1. Side Lunges

Side squats are an excellent warm up exercise. This exercise focuses on your glutes and adductor muscles.

Here’s how to properly perform a side lunge.

  1. Start with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take your right foot and step to your right, shifting your weight to that foot by bending your right knee and pushing your hips back.
  3. Extend your hips and push off your right knee to return to standing. Then repeat the process with your left foot.
  4. Repeat for 12 reps on each foot.

2. Reverse lunges

Reverse lunges activate your core, glutes, and hamstrings – all essential parts of your body when it comes to running. 

Here’s how to perform a reverse lunge.

  1. Start by standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Take your right foot and step back onto the ball of your foot.
  3. Bend your right knee while stabilizing and engaging your core until your front leg is at a 90-degree angle. 
  4. Bring yourself back up and step back into a neutral position.
  5. Repeat with your left leg, and do 12 reps on each leg.

Pro-tip: To turn this into a dynamic full-body warm-up, add an overhead reach to the motion when you step back.

3. Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are one of the best leg warm-up exercises, as they engage all your muscles and kickstart your running movement. 

Here’s how to do walking lunges:

  1. Make sure that you have at least 12 meters of space to walk.
  2. Starting with your feet shoulder-width apart, take a step forward with your right foot.
  3. Lift the heel of your left foot, and bend at the front and back knee until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. 
  4. Push off and step forward with your left foot to bring it next to your right, then repeat the same motion with your left foot. 
  5. Do 12 reps on each side for two sets.

4. Leg Swings

These stretches are an essential hip warm-up exercise and provide a full range of motion. 

Here’s how to perform a proper leg swing:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your hands on your hip or placed on a surface for balance.
  2. Keeping your core tight, raise your right foot off the floor and swing it straight out in front of you in a controlled motion, immediately swinging it behind you.
  3. Repeat for 12 reps, then switch legs. 

It’s vital to do leg swings front to back and side to side. However, another alternative is to do this exercise with a bent knee. 

Here’s how to do a bent knee side-to-side leg swing:

  1. Stand facing a wall and place your palms on the wall.
  2. Shift your weight to your left leg and lift your right leg, bending at the knee.
  3. Swing your right knee towards your left shoulder and then out to the right.
  4. Repeat this for 12 reps, then switch legs and repeat.

5. Side Step

The side step, or the shuffle, is a great warm-up to get your body moving. It warms up all the leg muscles – the calves, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and glutes.

Here’s how to perform the side step:

  1. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms hanging at your sides.
  2. With your right leg, step to the side and start taking small side steps (shuffling). Do this for about 15 meters. Make sure to raise your knees as high as you can.
  3. You should finish off the side with your right leg. Repeat the stretch on your left side until you end up where you started. 
  4. Repeat this 4-5 times.

6. Butt Kicks

Last on our list of warm up exercises for legs is butt kicks. 

Butt kicks are a simple but effective exercise to warm up your muscles and get them used to running. They also help improve your form and stride while running.

Here’s how to perform butt kicks:

  1. Start in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lean forward slightly until your chest is over your toes.
  3. Keep your elbows close to your body and start jogging forward by bringing your heels to touch your hamstring.
  4. Keep alternating feet for about 60 seconds. 


Man in athletic clothing doing lunges on outdoor staircase

Conclusion: You Aren’t Ready Until You Warm Up

While some runners are anxious and prefer to dive straight into their run, this can do more harm than good. Warming up before your run allows you to run at your top performance by ensuring your muscles are ready to go from the first step.

These six leg warm-up exercises touch on each important muscle group to ensure coordination, agility, and safety in your run. Don’t forget to cool down with some after-run stretches!

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