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Try This Full-Body Dynamic Warm-up to Prep for Any Workout
This post comes from Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT, founder of BuiltLean.com, an 8-week program designed for busy professionals that requires only three workouts per week. The views expressed herein are his own.
Around 10 years ago, dynamic warm-ups started gaining popularity in the sports world as an effective method for athletes to prep before an event. Today, dynamic warm-ups are a standard routine for athletes ranging from amateurs to professionals.
In this article, you'll learn why a dynamic warm-up is so effective, and we'll cover a specific full body routine you can use before you exercise — whether you're about to play a sport or hit the weights. Check out the video above for demonstrations of each move!
What Is a Dynamic Warm-Up?
A dynamic warm-up uses stretches that are "dynamic," meaning you are moving as you stretch. For decades, static stretching, which requires holding a stretch for 10 or more seconds while motionless, was the most popular type of warm-up for athletes.
Dynamic stretching is ideal as the core of a warm-up routine for several reasons:
- It activates muscles you will use during your workout. For example, a lunge with a twist is a dynamic stretching exercise that engages your hips, legs, and core muscles. Whether you are doing weighted lunges in the gym, or lunging for a soccer ball, the muscles involved have already been engaged during your warm-up.
- Dynamic stretching improves range of motion . So if you feel like you can barely bend over to tie your shoes after a long day at work, a dynamic warm-up routine can help you feel more limber.
- Dynamic stretches improve body awareness. If you don’t warm-up and hop into a soccer game, it may take a while for your body to perform optimally. Moving as you stretch challenges your balance and coordination; skills that could help your performance.
- Warming up in motion enhances muscular performance and power. Studies reveal dynamic stretching before a workout can help you lift more weight and increase overall athletic performance compared to no stretching or static stretching  . If you are trying to get stronger, build more muscle, or simply perform better, a dynamic warm-up routine is likely your best bet.
The Five-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up Routine
Here's a dynamic warm-up routine that doesn't require any equipment, it will prep your entire body for movement, and it can be completed in just five minutes. This basic routine can be used as an effective warm-up for many different activities, from interval training sprints to a full body strength training workout.
Complete 10 reps of each exercise below for 1-2 rounds, and check out the video at the top for tips and demonstrations of each move.
1) Lunge with a Twist
As the name implies, this is a combination of two different moves: a forward lunge and a horizontal twist. The forward lunge helps stretch the hip flexors and activates the legs, glutes, and hips, while the twist stretches out the upper and middle back and activates core rotation. As you do the lunge, step forward, then drop your hips. You shouldn't try to lunge too far forward so your front knee extends far beyond your toes. After you have lunged, slowly twist toward the side you are lunging for a more intense hip flexor stretch.
2) Knee to Chest
This exercise mimics the top of a running stride as you bring your knee toward your chest before striking the foot toward the ground. You can alternate each leg while stationary or do it while walking forward. Focus on bringing the knee cap into the chest by hugging your shin while stepping onto your toes with your opposite foot, which will give you more leverage.
3) High Kicks
High kicks help warm-up the hamstrings and improve range of motion. You can do them while alternating as you walk, or how I prefer, stationary while focusing on one side at a time. If starting with your right leg, extend your left arm straight out. Kick your leg up while keeping your leg and hand straight so that your toes hit your palm. Try to progressively kick higher, but complete this exercise while staying under control.
4) Hip Stretch With A Twist
This is an exceptional stretch, especially for working professionals who sit a lot during the day. It helps open up the hips and groin while stretching the core, upper, and middle back. Start in the push up position and bring your right foot up to your right hand while keeping your hips down and lower back flat. Take your left hand, twist to your left while extending your arm and reaching toward the sky. Come back to the starting pushup position and repeat on the other side. A possible substitution for this exercise would be a side lunge to help work on your lateral movement.
A T-Push Up is a great exercise to help warm-up your upper body, especially the shoulders, while also activating your entire core. Start out in the push-up position, and then lower yourself down towards the ground. As you push back up, extend your right arm toward the sky while keeping your left arm stable and your hips from moving down, or up. Bring your arm back to the starting position, do another push up, and then repeat with the left arm.
6) Jump Squats (Advanced)
Jump squats are a great plyometric exercise for warming up the lower body. Because the exercise is fast, it requires a greater degree of force production and power than the other exercises on this list, so it's a more advanced warm-up exercise. Stand up with your feet about shoulder width apart while holding your hands behind your head, or on your hips. Squat down until the hips are about parallel with the ground, then forcibly jump off the ground. Land softly and repeat the jump.
7) Jump Lunges (Advanced)
Jump lunges are another great plyometric exercise for warming up the lower body. This exercise also requires balance to help activate your stabilizer muscles in your legs and hips. With your hands at your sides or behind your head, start with one foot extended forward and one behind. Drop your hips downward and forcibly jump into the air. While you are in the air, switch your legs so that your forward leg is now behind you and your back leg is now in front of you.
Making It Easier
To make this dynamic warm-up easier, you can do some of the exercises assisted while holding on to a sturdy and stable pole or object. For example, you can do an assisted squat, or assisted reverse lunge, which makes both exercises much easier and more manageable. With the hip stretch, you can choose not to open up your shoulders, and with the T-push up, you don't have to do the push up.
I hope it’s now clear that a solid dynamic warm-up can effectively prepare your body for exercise. Next time you go for a jog, play some hoops, or hit the gym, give this warm-up a try. Your body will thank you!
Are there any dynamic warm-up exercises you like that I didn’t include?
- Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. Page, Phil. Internationa Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2012 Feburary.⤴
- Effects of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on leg extension power. Yamaguchi, T., Ishii, K. Laboratory of Human Performance, Hokkaido University. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2005 Aug.⤴
- A comparison of two warm-ups on joint range of motion. Beedle, B.B., Mann, C.L.. Physical Fitness Testing Laboratory, Department of Health and Human Performance, Elon University, Elon, North Carolina. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2007 Aug;21(3):776-9.⤴