Around 15 years ago, dynamic warm-ups got popular in the sports world as an effective way for athletes to prep for events. Today, dynamic warm-ups are standard for everyone from elite athletes to machine-only newbies.
Learn why dynamic stretching is so effective, and get a full-body routine you can use before you exercise — whether you’re about to play a sport, do some interval sprints, or hit the weights.
This routine should only take about five minutes. Complete 10 reps of each exercise below for 1 to 2 rounds.
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. Don’t lunge so far forward that your front knee extends beyond your toes. After you’ve lunged, slowly twist toward the side of your front leg for a more intense hip flexor stretch.
This exercise mimics the top of a running stride as you bring your knee toward your chest before lowering 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 your chest by hugging your shin while stepping onto your toes with your opposite foot, which will give you more leverage.
High kicks help warm up the hamstrings and improve range of motion. You can do them, alternating, as you walk. I prefer to do them 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.
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 pushup position and bring your right foot up to your right hand while keeping your hips down and lower back flat. Lift 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 substitution for this exercise would be a side lunge to help work on your lateral movement.
A T pushup is a great exercise to help warm up your upper body, especially the shoulders, while also activating your entire core. Start out in the pushup position, then lower yourself down toward 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 pushup, then repeat with the left arm.
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 jump with force. Land softly and repeat the jump.
Jump lunges are another great plyometric exercise for warming up the lower body. This exercise also requires balance to activate the 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’re 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.
To make this dynamic warm-up easier, you can do some of the exercises assisted while holding onto 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 pushup, you don’t have to do the whole pushup itself.
For decades, static stretching (holding a stretch for 10 or more seconds while motionless) was the most popular type of warm-up for athletes. These days, warm-ups that are dynamic (moving as you stretch) are all the rage, and for good reason.
Here’s why dynamic stretching is ideal during a warm-up routine:
- 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’re doing weighted lunges in the gym, or lunging for a soccer ball, the key muscles have already engaged during your warm-up.
- Dynamic stretching improves range of motion. In a 2019 study,researchers showed that dynamic stretching increased the range of motion on hamstring muscles and knee extension by 10 percent, while reducing stiffness.
Iwata M, et al. (2019). Dynamic stretching has sustained effects on range of motion and passive stiffness of the hamstring muscles. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30787647If 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 right 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 could increase flexibility. A 2017 study on Division I linemen found that dynamic stretching increased hip flexibility on par with using a foam roller.
Bahara B, et al. (2017). Acute effects of deep tissue foam rolling and dynamic stretching on muscular strength, power, and flexibility in Division I linemen. https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00124278-201704000-00003While it’s true that we’re not all pro football players, it may be worth giving a shot. If you’re trying to get stronger, build more muscle, or simply perform better, a dynamic warm-up routine is likely your best bet. 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!