You probably know that person at the gym who walks in off the street, slaps a few plates on the bar and calls one light set their warm-up. You shouldn’t be that person. It might save time, and skipping your warm-up might seem appealing, but if you want to move, perform, and feel better, the warm-up is non-negotiable.
A good warm-up aims to get your blood moving to the working muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This will get your body (and mind) ready for the training ahead. Your warm shouldn’t just consist of a few arm circles and static stretches, but dynamic exercises that improve mobility and performance in real time.
Here are the 15 best dynamic warm-up exercises to perform before you hit the barbell, as well as the benefits of warming up and a few programming suggestions to help you get the most out of your training.
Best Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises
- Band X Crossover Lateral Walk
- Kettlebell Arm Bar
- Walking Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach
- Passive Leg Lowering
- Back-to-Wall Shoulder Flexion
- Band Overhead Reach
- Rocking Ankle Mobilization
- Tall-Kneeling Shoulder Controlled Articular Rotation
- Supine Floor Sides
- Bear Crawl
- World’s Greatest Stretch
- Reaching Single Leg Deadlifts
- Hand Walkout
- Shin Box Rotation
- Glute Bridge
Banded lateral walks are great at activating your glutes, which is important for knee health and getting you comfortable moving in different planes of motion. This lateral walk variation will take this up a notch or two.
The act of crossing the band over creates extra resistance making this lateral walk variation more challenging. Plus, the X crossover lateral walk will help improve your core strength and your movement in the frontal plane.
Benefits of the Band X Crossover Lateral Walk
- You’ll train the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius, both of which are important for hip and knee health.
- This move works the glutes in the frontal plane, which strengthens the kinds of lateral movements you might need in sports.
- It’s the perfect dynamic warm-up exercise for any frontal plane movements like side lunges or Cossack squats.
How to Do the Band X Crossover Lateral Walk
Stand tall, place your feet hip-width apart and loop each end of the resistance band underneath your feet. Form an X shape by crossing the band in front of your body. Hold the crossed band with your arms relaxed in front of you. Take small steps to one side. Keep your toes pointed forward the entire time. Repeat on the other side.
The kettlebell arm bar is equal parts a stability and mobility exercise, making it a dynamic warm-up exercise with a twist. It strengthens the entire shoulder girdle, especially the rotator cuff, and also helps unlock the thoracic spine, particularly after being desk-bound all day. T-spine mobility is needed to keep your spine neutral, especially when deadlifting or squatting.
Benefits of the Kettlebell Arm Bar
- Improves shoulder stability and mobility.
- Improves your ability to get your arm over your head without compensating spinal posture.
- A great dynamic warm-up exercise for squatting, deadlifting, and any overhead exercise.
How to Do the Kettlebell Arm Bar
Lie on your right side with your knees bent close to 90 degrees and grab the kettlebell with two hands. Press the kettlebell up with two hands, then release your left hand to your side, about 30 to 60 degrees away from your body. Lift your right leg up and over to the left side of your body, keeping your right arm stable throughout the entire movement.
With your right knee on the ground and bent at 90 degrees, raise your left arm overhead and rest your head in a neutral position on your left arm. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you drive your hips deeper into the ground, and then lengthen and reach with your right arm. Repeat for desired reps and repeat on the other side.
If you were to choose just one exercise on this list the walking Spiderman with a hip lift and overhead reach would be it. This one movement encompasses many smaller movements, so you’re warming up and engaging your entire body. It trains the adductors, hip mobility, hamstring flexibility, hip flexor strength, and thoracic spine mobility.
Benefits of the Walking Spiderman With Hip Lift and Overhead Reach
- When you’re short on time, this exercise will warm up your whole body in a hurry.
- Trains ankle, hip, shoulder, and thoracic mobility.
- Full body dynamic warm-up exercise can be done on lower, upper, or full days.
How to Do the Walking Spiderman With Hip Lift and Overhead Reach
Step into a forward lunge and bring both hands down inside your forward leg. Then, straighten both legs while your hands are on the ground and come back down and get into a deep lunge. Reach and rotate the arm furthest away from the forward leg with your eyes following your hands. Return the hand to the ground, step up, step through to the other side, and repeat.
The passive leg lowering places one leg hip in flexion while your hamstring is stretched. Your opposite leg goes into flexion and extension while your core remains stable. Making your hips and legs do separate work is great for improving your hip mobility. The passive leg lowering trains hip separation, where one hip flexes while the other extends. This is the basis of everyday locomotion and most single-leg exercises.
Benefits of the Passive Leg Lowering
- A great dynamic warm-up exercise as it trains hip mobility, and core stability while providing an active stretch for your hamstrings.
- You’ll train hip separation here, which is important for running and single-leg exercises.
- It’s a great recovery exercise to perform after squatting or deadlifting.
How to Do the Passive Leg Lowering
Lie in a supine position and hook a resistance band around the middle of one foot. Flex both hips to 90 degrees and hold the band in each hand. Pull the band down enough to engage your core and feel an active stretch in your hamstrings. Lower your free leg to the ground slowly. Keep your banded leg stable. Lower your heel almost to the floor while keeping a neutral lower back. Return your banded leg to starting position. Repeat for reps and then switch sides.
The back-to-wall shoulder flexion trains your shoulder blades to move around the ribcage without assistance from the lower back. The back-to-the-wall shoulder flexion trains posterior pelvic tilt, a neutral neck position, and core stability while lifting your arms overhead. This makes for a great dynamic warm-up exercise for going overhead.
Benefits of the Back-to-Wall Shoulder Flexion
- A great dynamic warmup exercise for most overhead movements.
- Improves your ability to train overhead without compensation.
- When performed regularly and with good form, this improves your overhead shoulder mobility.
How to Do the Back-to-Wall Shoulder Flexion
Set up with your back against a wall and your feet roughly six to eight inches away from the base of the wall. Make sure your entire back is flat against the wall, your thumbs are pointed forward and your arms are by your side. Exhale and slowly raise the arms overhead as you try to touch your thumbs to the wall without compensation from your lower back. Then return to the starting position and repeat for desired reps.
When you’re going overhead — with or without weight — it pays to avoid compensating with flared ribs or hyperextending your low back. This will keep you injury-free longer and your lower back will be a happy camper. The mini-band overhead reach trains shoulder horizontal abduction, scapular protraction, retraction, and upward and downward rotation, and these movements are all crucial for safely lifting overhead.
Benefits of the Band Overhead Reach
- This great dynamic warm-up exercise prepares you to lift safely overhead.
- The mini band overhead reach is an excellent low-impact warm-up or recovery exercise for overhead athletes.
- A great indicator exercise on whether you go overhead safely or not.
How to Do the Band Overhead Reach
Wrap a mini band around both wrists with your arms by your sides. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart. Lock your ribcage down, engage your glutes, and press forward like you’re doing a bench press. Slowly raise your arms above your head. Avoid flaring your rib cage or hyperextending your lower back. Reverse the movement. Reset and repeat.
Dynamic warm-up exercises like the rocking ankle mobilization are great for prepping your ankles for barbell lifts. Without paying attention to ankle mobility, your ankle’s ability to dorsiflex — pulling your toes up — often suffers during day-to-day activities because you’re wearing shoes a lot. Reduced ankle mobility can impact your squat depth.
Benefits of the Rocking Ankle Mobilization
- This move improves your ankle mobility, which is important for most lower body lifts.
- You’ll target ankle dorsiflexion, which is needed for better squat and deadlift technique.
- Better ankle mobility goes a long way toward keeping your knees healthy.
How to Do the Rocking Ankle Mobilization
Get into a push-up position. Hike up your hips. Walk your feet a little bit in toward your hands. Position your left foot behind your right ankle. Rise up on your toes. Lean forward with your hands on the ground. Begin slowly rocking back so your right foot ends flat on the ground. Keep your right leg straight. Return to the starting position. Repeat for reps.
The tall-kneeling shoulder-controlled articular rotation (CAR) involves actively moving your shoulder joint through its greatest rotational range of motion. You’ll lubricate your shoulder joints before lifting, promote healthy tissue remodeling, and train your shoulder stabilizers at the outer limits of their range of motion. All of this translates into healthier shoulders and better pressing power.
Benefits of the Tall Kneeling Shoulder Controlled Articular Rotation
- This move will lubricate your shoulder joint before hitting the weights.
- You’ll improve your shoulder strength and mobility at the outer edges of your range of motion.
- The reduced base of support of the tall kneeling position helps you perform these moves with better form.
How to Do the Tall Kneeling Shoulder Controlled Articular Rotation
Get into a tall kneeling position. Engage your glutes and flatten your ribcage. With your working arm in a hang position, slowly perform a shoulder circle backward. Concentrate on feeling every part of the movement. Perform a shoulder circle forwards. Reset and repeat on the other side.
Supine floor slide trains the muscles of the mid and upper back, helping combat poor posture and helps improve going overhead with the stability of the floor. The floor provides a solid surface for you to gauge your posture against. Not only a great dynamic warm-up exercise the supine floor slide can be used as a rest and recovery drill between sets of overhead or bench pressing.
Benefits of the Supine Floor Slide
- Actively open up the chest muscles while training the muscles of the mid and upper back.
- Gets you ready to go overhead without compensation from the lower back.
- Great dynamic warm-up exercise that helps comeback hunched posture.
How to Do the Supine Floor Slide
Lie supine on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and spine flush against the ground. Bring arms into a “stick’em-up” position, and slide them up overhead while keeping the lower back glued to the floor. Bring your arms back until your elbows and level with your shoulders, reset and repeat.
Nothing ties your lower, upper body, and core together like bear crawling, making it a great full-body dynamic warm-up exercise. The act of getting on all fours and crawling forward — keeping your back straight, and your knees under your hips and an inch off the floor teaching. Your core will burn from stabilizing the torso, your quads will engage from propelling your feet forward, and your shoulders will work hard to move your arms.
Benefits of the Bear Crawl
- The act of crawling will improve total body coordination.
- Improves shoulder mobility, stability, and strengthens your entire core.
- A great warm-up exercise that activates the quads, core, shoulders, and hip flexors.
How to Do the Bear Crawl
Get on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. Then, raise your knees an inch off of the ground. Keeping your back straight, simultaneously move your right hand and left foot forward a few inches. Then, repeat on the other side. Keep repeating to crawl forward for desired reps.
Mobility is just as important as mass or strength. The world’s greatest stretch improves mobility and warms up three key areas — the hips, the shoulders, and the thoracic spine to get you ready for the training ahead. You can do this before any workout — loaded or unloaded — as it’s essentially a one-stop-warm-up-shop.
Benefits of the World’s Greatest Stretch
- Dynamically warms up the back, legs, hips, shoulders, and core before a workout.
- Improves the mobility of the thoracic spine, hips, and shoulders to better access their mobility before hitting the barbell.
How to Do the World’s Greatest Stretch
Get into a lunge position so that your front foot is flat, and your back foot is spiked. Lower the opposite arm of your extended leg to the floor and reach your other arm to the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower your arm to the same side as your front leg. Repeat on the other side.
Combine the single-leg Romanian deadlift with reaching forward and you have a great full-body dynamic warm exercise. This exercise leads to better neuromuscular control single leg balance, reduced muscle imbalances, and improved total-body coordination. The act of reaching forward acts as a counterbalance to allow you to master this difficult exercise and improve shoulder mobility.
Benefits Of the Reaching Single Leg Deadlift
- Improved total-body coordination.
- Increases balance and stability of your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.
- Helps you master this difficult exercise.
How to Do the Reaching Single Leg Deadlift
Pick one foot up off the floor, find balance on your grounded foot, and soften your working knee. Keep your chest up and shoulders down, hinge your hip back, and try not to rotate the working hip upwards while reaching forward with the opposite arm. Hinge until your belly button is facing the floor and you feel a stretch in your hamstring and shoulder. Stabilize and return to the starting position.
The hand walkout is one of those catch-all warm-up exercises that activates your shoulders, core, and upper back while providing an active stretch to your hamstring and calves. This is actually three exercises in one, the inchworm, push-up, and downward dog which makes it a great warm-up exercise for lower, upper or full-body days.
Benefits of the Hand Walkout
- A great catch-all full-body exercise that has a variety of uses from being a warm-up, recovery, or workout exercise.
- Improves shoulder mobility and gets you ready to go overhead.
How to Do the Hand Walkout
Hinge down and place your fingers on the ground. Take small steps forward with your hands until you reach the push-up plank position. Perform a push-up and, as you’re rising, get yourself into the downward dog position. Hold for a second and walk your hands back to your toes. Then repeat for desired reps.
The shin box rotation is a great warm-up exercise because it works both internal and external rotation in one movement. This exercise is easily regressed or progressed depending on your level of strength and mobility. Plus, it’s a great drill before squatting or deadlifting.
Benefits of the Shin Box Rotation
- Trains and improves hip internal rotation which is important for hip mobility and injury prevention.
- It is easily progressed or regressed depending on your strength and mobility levels.
How to Do the Shin Box Rotation
Sit on the floor and have your front leg at a 90-degree angle and your back leg at a 90-degree angle. One hip internally rotated, and the other hip externally rotated. Have your hands behind you with an upright torso and slowly reverse the hip position until the internally rotated hip is externally rotated and the external hip is now internally rotated. Go back and forth for reps.
The glute bridge almost seems so simple that it shouldn’t work, but it does. It actively stretches the hip flexors to help improve hip mobility. The glute bridge can be easily progressed by performing it one leg at a time or adding pauses in the top position for more strength and time under tension.
Benefits of the Glute Bridge
- Strengthens the glutes and helps to improve hip mobility at the same time.
- Will carry over to your deadlift and squat strength.
- A great exercise to add volume to your glutes.
How to Do the Glute Bridge
Lie on the floor with your heels planted firmly on the ground. Contract your core and compress your ribs. Drive through your heels to lift the hips and lower back off the floor. Contract the glutes and hamstrings. Note that if pressure is felt in the lower back, tuck your pelvis under your body to decrease lumbar extension.
Benefits of Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises
If you’ve ever experienced stiff and sore muscles, you’ll love the primary benefit of performing dynamic warm-up exercises — it helps you move in a greater range of motion with reduced muscle stiffness. This will improve your overall exercise performance and mental state by ensuring that your body can handle what you’re putting it through in training.
Whether you’re running, lifting, or jumping, training hard puts a lot of stress on your joints and muscles. When performing a lot of these dynamic warm-up exercises your joint moves through its full range of motion, it improves its ability to absorb force. Plus, a warm muscle is less likely to strain or tear.
When your body is restricted, it will compensate and find a way to get the movement done. This leads to muscles and joints up and down the kinetic chain trying to do the work of your restricted joint. Over time, this can potentially lead to injuries and pain.
Better Access to Your Range of Motion
These 15 dynamic warm-up exercises ensure not only warm up your muscles and connective tissue but ensure better joint mobility so you’re able to move as efficiently as possible during your lifts. You’ll be in a better position to strengthen all parts of the movement and this leads to more strength and therefore better muscle-building potential.
Mentally Prepares You for the Training Ahead
Yes, the warm-up is physical and it will prepare your body for the work ahead. But when you’re coming in cold from the street to the gym, the warm-up mentally prepares you too and provides you feedback on your level of readiness. If your warm-up feels sluggish or awkward, you may not be ready to tackle super-heavy lifts.
Dynamic Exercise Sets and Reps
These dynamic warm-up exercises are not meant to grind you into the ground, but to prepare you for the work ahead. So, keeping the reps moderate around the five to 10 range works well. Remember — you’re warming up to lift weights, not to push yourself to failure.
Spending five to 10 minutes going through a circuit of dynamic warm-up exercises will prime the muscles for the work ahead. Here is an example.
- Passive Leg Lowering: 10 reps per side.
- Supine Floor Slides: 10 reps.
- Hand Walk Out: 5 reps.
- World’s Greatest Stretch: 5 reps per side.
- Back-to-the-Wall Shoulder Flexion: 8 reps.
Plus, you can perform these dynamic warm-up exercises as a filler or recovery exercise between sets of a strength exercise. It’s best to pick an exercise that complements your main move. For example, pairing back-to-the-wall shoulder flexion with overhead presses.
More Warm-Up Tips
Now that you have a handle on the best dynamic warm-up exercises to move and feel better, you can also check out these other helpful training articles for strength, power, and fitness athletes.
- The 7 Best Bodyweight Exercises For Muscle And Mobility
- 4 Mini Band Exercises To Improve Your Shoulder Mobility
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