Warm-Up Exercises for Runners

Warm-ups are designed to get your body ready for upcoming activity, whether that’s running, lifting weights, swimming, or anything else that is over-and-above your ‘normal’ activity level. Preparing your body reduces your risk of injury, improves your performance and prepares you both physically, and mentally.

But what does ‘preparation’ mean in practice? A warm-up must gradually increase your heart rate, which in turn increases your blood flow, muscle temperature and oxygen delivery.

Paul Reay and Toby Hodder, our resident Health and Fitness Advisers, have created this step-by-step break-down of a recommended warm-up for runners. You can follow it through at your own pace, using the tips and photos for guidance. This warm-up uses a RAMP structure, and is perfect to accompany your shorter runs – if you’re currently working on your couch-to-5km training plan, this is for you!

What is RAMP?

R = Raise – Raise your heart rate, blood flow, respiration (breathing) rate and body temperature with steady cardio exercise
A = Activate – Exercises designed to recruit and strengthen the muscles key to proper and efficient running gait.
M = Mobilise – Exercises aimed at increasing mobility in the key areas needed for running such as the hips and ankles.
P = Potentiate – Exercises specifically aimed at preparing the body for running.

We recommend both beginning and ending your warm-up with the ‘raise’ exercises, to make sure that you don’t cool down too much before starting your run. Other elements of the RAMP warm up can be completed in any order. In our warm-up, we’ll start with mobility…

Let’s warm-up!


Exercise 1: Hip opener 
Repetitions: 5 reps each side
Targets: Hips and upper back

  • Start in the press-up position and bring one foot forward to the outside of one hand.
  • Rest your back knee on the floor or (advanced option) keep it raised for a deeper stretch.
  • Using the same arm as your forward front leg, reach your forearm to the floor.
  • Next, bring both arms overhead into a tall kneeling position, making yourself as tall as possible with arms reaching to the ceiling.
  • Squeeze your glute muscles to prevent an arch in the lower back.
  • Repeat five times on each side.

Fitness instructor demonstrates the first stage of the hip opener stretch by assuming a lunch position with one knee touch the floor behind and one foot extended forward. Hands are palm facing down on the floor next to the front foot. Fitness instructor demonstrates the second stage of the hip opener stretch by taking a lunge position and reaching towards the floor with the same elbow as the front leg

Exercise 2: Downward Dog into Cobra
Repetitions 5 reps
Targets: Hamstring, calf, upper and lower back

  • Hold down-dog and cobra positions for 2-3 seconds each before transitioning to the next position in this exercise.
  • Down-dog starts in a press-up position. Push your weight backwards, positioning the crown of your head to the floor, between your  arms and put your weight into your heels.
  • Next, slowly bring chest back down towards the floor and push through your hands into ‘cobra’.
  • In Cobra, straighten your arms and lift the torso slightly off the floor, squeezing your glutes.
  • Repeat 5 times.

Exercise 3: 90/90 hip switch
Repetitions: 10 reps
Targets: Hip internal and external rotation

  • Set yourself up in a seated position with your hands behind you, supporting your weight.
  • Make sure your feet start outside of hip width with a 90-degree bend in both knees.
  • Keep your shoulders facing forward as you switch your legs from left to right, pausing on each side.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side.

Exercise 4: Calf pulse
Repetitions: 10 reps
Targets: Calf and Achilles tendon

  • Start in a press-up position, then raise your hips above the shoulders so you can press heels into the ground.
  • Try to push your heel into the floor, alternating legs.
  • Repeat 10 times on each foot.


For these exercises, complete all the reps for each exercise before moving onto the next exercise. Complete this circuit 1-3 times – we recommend a longer warm-up on colder days!

Exercise 1: Glute Bridge
Repetitions: 10 reps
Targets: Gluteus maximus

  • Set up with heels close to your glutes and making sure your shins are at 90-degrees to the floor.
  • Push weight through your heels, hips to the ceiling and raise glutes off the floor to create the ‘bridge’.
  • Concentrate on contracting (squeezing) the glutes to initiate the movement.
  • At the top, your hips should be at full range with your back off the floor and weight in your heels and shoulders.
  • (Advanced option) Extend one leg, pausing at the top for a moment – make sure glutes are squeezed throughout.

Exercise 2: Squat (bodyweight only)
Repetitions: 10 reps
Targets: Gluteus complex, quads and hamstrings

  • Set up with feet at hip-width apart and keep them flat on the floor throughout the exercise – toes can be slightly angled outwards.
  • Keep the chest pushed out to maintain a straight flat back.
  • Arms are outstretched in front for a counter balance.
  • Squat down, making sure knees stay behind the line of your toes.
  • Aim to get thighs parallel with the floor or lower.

Exercise 3: Lunge
Repetitions: 5 reps on each leg
Targets: Gluteus complex, quads and hamstrings

  • Perform different lunge variation each time round the circuit (forward, sideways or reverse).
  • Aim to achieve a right angles at the knee and hip.
  • Keep your torso upright, your back knee off the floor and your front shin vertical.
  • During a sideways lunge, ensure your weight is in your heels and your torso is leaning forward.
  • Repeat 5 times on each side.

Exercise 4: Calf raise
Repetitions: 10 reps
Targets: Calf and achilles tendon

  • Set up the start of the exercise with the balls of your feet on a small step.
  • Start heels below the step to increase stretch on the Achilles.
  • Rise as tall as possible on both feet onto the big toes – try to prevent rolling out onto the little toe.
  • (Advanced option) At the top of the exercise, lift one foot off the floor and float down on the opposite foot, slowly.
  • Repeat 10 times (on both) or 5 times (for each foot, if using advanced option)


Exercise 1: Pogo hops
Repetitions: 1-3 rounds of 20 seconds
Targets: Ankle and calf

  • Can be achieved by skipping, if you have access to a rope and enough space – if not, stick with static pogo jumps.
  • Start with feet directly under hips.
  • Aim for speed rather than height.
  • When in the air try to pull your feet up towards your shin so to stretch the calf and Achilles (flat feet).
  • Land on the front to mid foot to keep heels elevated.
  • Keep only a small bend in knees and hips and focus instead on using ankle mobility for the jump.

Exercise 2: Hop and hold
Repetitions: 1-3 rounds of 3 hops on each leg
Targets: Stability

  • Focus is on your landing rather than jump distance – aim for a stable and quiet landing each time.
  • Sit back as you land with the torso leant forward.
  • Land on a flat foot to help balance..
  • Try a keep knees soft and absorb the landing force at the hip by leaning your torso forwards.


Exercise: Walk, jog or run
Target: Heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature
Time: 3-5 minutes

  • Gradually increase speed over the 5-minutes until your reach your training speed


Leave any questions in the comments section below, and let us know how we can support your running and training journey with more supporting blog posts from our in-house team of fitness experts! #BristolUniRun 

Header Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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