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How to Warm Up as an Actor

All actors must warm up before walking onto the stage or set for the first time. While this means learning the lines and cues inside and out, warm-ups need a little more. Actors must use their whole body, voice, and mind to bring a role to life. These warm-ups are guaranteed to help you perform on the set.

Do Actors Need a Warm-Up?

Becoming both physically and mentally relaxed helps you prepare for any performance. Warm-ups are critical for actors. A good warm-up can help lower pre-performance anxieties and help you feel more limber. Some roles can be more physically and mentally demanding, but a warm-up will help improve the performance.

How to Warm Up as an Actor

Warm-up routines don’t have to take long or require other actors. A few simple stretches, a few funny faces, and you’re golden.

Body Stretches

There are different body stretches you could perform. Regular stretching can help you improve your movement range and making it part of your warm-up can help lower anxiety. A quick stretch as part of your warm-up can make you feel more limber while reducing your heart rate for better performance.

These are some of the best stretches for an actor:

  1. Neck circles

  2. Shoulder shrugs and rolls

  3. Arm circles

  4. Wrist circles

  5. Standing quad stretch – while standing or holding onto something stable, pull one foot towards your butt and hold it there for around 30 seconds. Swap to the next leg and repeat.

Stretching is ideal for activating different muscles, but some light bodyweight exercise and general movement are just as helpful.

Shaking it Out

While stretching can be good for slowing heart rates and easing anxiety, shaking different body parts can be a more energetic warm-up. Doing this can help release any physical and mental tension before the performance. Shaking is used in tension and trauma-releasing exercises (TRE) since it activates a natural reflex that can ease muscular tension.

To add this to your warm-up, this is all you need to do:

  1. Shake different parts of your body, such as your arms.

  2. Jumping and/or squatting.

  3. Wiggling your body quickly.

  4. Dancing may also help.

Shaking is also a great way to cool down after an intense performance since it helps to let go of any adrenaline from it.

Small Face, Big Face

This is a common technique used by actors since it gives your facial muscles as good a workout as possible. Doing this allows you to stretch facial muscles you might not usually use and can enhance your performance. It has various names, but “small face, big face” is a good description.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open your mouth as wide as possible, then scrunch up your face as hard as you can.

  2. Raise your eyebrows as much as possible, then lower them as much as you can.

  3. Pull the widest faces you can, then the smallest.

The aim is to pull the most extreme faces possible to stretch your facial muscles. This works just like stretching other muscles. It helps provide those muscles with a better range of movement for your performance. Facial expression is essential for acting, and a warm-up technique such as this can enhance the performance.

Vocal Warm-Ups

Vocal warm-ups are also crucial for actors, whether a role on a stage or on set. Speaking is a significant part of acting, and there’s a wide range of methods for warming up your voice. Doing a vocal warm-up can help you articulate your words and come across better while performing. Skipping this could lead to vocal cord damage or may harm your confidence.

These are some of the best vocal warm-ups for actors:

  1. Tongue Twisters – Repeating these can help to loosen your mouth muscles and improve the pronunciation of intricate lines.

  2. Yawn and Sigh – Simply breathe air with your mouth, then exhale through your nose, similar to a sigh.

  3. Tongue Stretches – Touch as many areas as possible inside your mouth with your tongue to stretch it. Making click and pop sounds can also help to stretch the muscles.

  4. Massage your jaw – Loosening your jaw will help you speak more clearly and improve your range. Facial massages can also relax other muscles, which can enhance expressions.

Group Warm-Ups

Whether you’ll be performing on a stage or production set, there are some great group warm-ups where everyone can get involved. These also serve as fun ice breakers for new acting classes or groups.

Here are some of the best group warm-ups for actors:

  1. Group Counting – Actors must count out loud to the highest number they can, but no two people can speak at once. To avoid this, actors must communicate with their eyes and body language. If two or more people talk at once, it’s game over.

  2. Mirroring – This is a two-person activity. Two people face each other and attempt to mirror the actions of the other person. This will encourage actors to pay attention to the movements and bodies of their partners. One person leads, and the second follows.

  3. The Chair – This is best done with a group since the aim is to expand the participants’ imagination by encouraging them to come up with a total of 40 ways how someone can make a chair. It’s an exercise designed to develop imagination. For example, making a chair out of wood, sitting on a bed, or attaching a wooden board to some rope and attaching it to the ceiling to create a swinging chair. This exercise can be repeated with all kinds of objects in different ways such as “40 ways someone can sit on a chair”.

  4. Pass the Imaginary Object – Throwing imaginary objects to others is a great warm-up for the mind. It can be simple yet effective. The activity involves holding imaginary items, passing them to other actors, and making sounds if necessary.

Experimenting with different warm-up exercises is vital for any actor. While some will become your favorites and feel more valuable, others might be limited to specific roles or performances. Finding out which ones are best for you will take time, and testing as many as possible is the best way to move forward.

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