Dynamic Warm Up – Why (and How) Fitness, Strength, and Power Athletes Should Do Them

Every training session, regardless of goal, ability level, or sport should include a dynamic warm-up. The dynamic warm-up will aid help to develop an athlete’s/lifter’s daily mental preparation and physical preparedness to train at higher intensities with an elevated injury resilience. Therefore, in this article we will discuss what exactly a dynamic warm-up is, why it is important, and offer coaches/lifters a few dynamic warm-up routines to kick off any training session.

Dynamic Warm-Up for Fitness

What Is a Dynamic Warm-Up?

A dynamic warm-up is a series of movements performed dynamically with the purpose of restoring active flexibility and/or preparing the joints, connective tissues, and muscles for dynamic movement with the purpose to promote muscular force (via concentric, isometric, eccentric contractions).

How to do a Dynamic Warm-Up?

There are many different ways that you can do a dynamic warm-up, however the general rules of thumb are to start with more basic, less ballistic (explosive) movements earlier in the exercise series to allow the body to adjust to movement. This may mean starting out with lower-impact exercises and then progressing in a fluid fashion into more explosive and full range movements (see sample dynamic warm-ups below). At the end of a dynamic warm-up, the athlete’s/lifter’s heart rate should be elevated, they should be breathing harder, and there should be some perspiration (sweat) occurring. It is at this point that they can then proceed into specific speed/power/corrective movement drills.

Why Do a Dynamic Warm-Up?

The dynamic warm-up is a key aspect of any training session, and often finds itself performed at the earliest stages (often after any soft tissue, mobility, or general steady state warm-ups). Below are six (6) reasons why a dynamic warm-up is key to performance and training longevity.

Elevate Heart Rate

Increasing heart rate is one of the most vital aspects of any warm-up. This allows the physiological systems (respiratory, cardiovascular, circulatory, musculoskeletal, endocrine, neurological, and even digestive), throughout the body to increase body temperature, blood flow, cardiac output, and prepare oneself for intense training. Additionally, this process can kick off aerobic processes that can enhance work capacity at the onset of a workout to truly maximize every rep.

Increase Core Temperature

Increased core temperature ensures that the muscles, joint capsules, and connective tissues can be prepared for higher-intensity movements.

Enhance Blood Flow to Muscle Tissues

When we exercise, blood flow is shunted from the intestines and stomach and pumped towards the working muscles, lungs, heart, and brain to enhance muscular performance. By adding a dynamic warm-up you can ensure that oxygen-rich blood is being delivered to your muscles at the onset of training.

Stimulate Nervous System

Improved blood flow, mind-muscle connections, and motor patterning all can occur during and following a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm-up helps to ensure that your body and mind is fully prepared for the training session to come.

Increased Mobility

While mobility issues may demand tissue manipulation, it can also be improved by increased end range control and movement, both of which can be targeted by a thoughtful dynamic warm-up.

Decreased Injury Risk

All of the above dynamic warm-up benefits can result in a heightened level of injury resilience during higher intensity training. Failure to adequately warm-up can result in muscle strains, excessive tendon and ligament stress (lack of muscular engagement), and/or general movement issues that can result in overuse/compensatory movement patterning injuries.

Best/Most Common Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises

Ask 100 coaches what their favorite dynamic warm-up exercises are and you will probably get 50+ answers… The below is a quick list of movements that often find themselves on the “best dynamic warm-up exercises”.

Groiners

Groiners are one of those movements that can hit nearly every single joint in the body. By doing a deep lunge and placing your hands onto the floor, you can really stretch the hips and groin to prepare oneself for squats, pulls, and athletic movement. Add in the thoracic component and you have a potential total-body movement.

Lunge Variations

Forward, reverse, crossover, lateral, and diagonal lunges all work themselves into a sound dynamic warm-up. Seeing that most athletic movements have you support yourself on one leg, it makes sense to include this within your dynamic warm-up routine.

Walkouts

Bent knee or straighten knee walkouts do a wonderful job at increasing hip function and patterning necessary for squats and pulls. In addition, this can help to dynamically stretch the hamstrings and lower back to prepare for explosive posterior chain movements (running, sprinting, lifting, weightlifting, etc).

Crawls

Crawling is about as basic as it can get, yet many athletes lack the mobility, stability, and coordination necessary to perform this fundamental movement pattern. Adding crawling into a training programs dynamic warm-up routine can help to maximize overall readiness and performance.

Cossack Slides/Squats

Cossack squats/lunges/slides are a great movement to increase hip, knee, and ankle mobility and prepare the joints for end range movement and force output. This is key for sports like weightlifting, baseball/softball (catchers), and sports were mobility and flexibility is a factor for injury resilience (so all of them).

High Knees

This is a dynamic exercise that can help to increase the rate of force production through the muscles of the hips, quadriceps, and hamstrings. This has high application to sprinting, running, and even weightlifting (in which the athlete must pull themselves quickly into deep hip and knee flexion).

Jumps

Light jumping can find its way into dynamic warm-ups to prepare an athlete for more explosive and higher impact plyometric drills. Simply hops, skips, and bounds can all happen in the dynamic warm-up phase of the training session.

Sample Dynamic Warm-Up for General Sports and Fitness

The below dynamic warm-up is the exact one what I use with collegiate athletes, sports teams, and general fitness. Each movement is done for 10-20 yards.

Perform the below routine one time through, taking a total of 5-8 minutes.

  • Knee Hugs and Pulls (Quadriceps, Hip Flexors, Hamstrings)  x 20 steps (10/leg)
  • Walkouts/Inchworms x 10
  • Walking Lunge + Reach x 20 steps (10/leg)
  • Lateral Lunge x 20 steps (10/leg)
  • High Knees and Butt Kicks x 20 steps per movement
  • Carioca x 20 steps (10/leg)
  • Leg Swings x 20 steps (10/leg)
  • Power March x 20 steps (10/leg)
  • Power Skips x 10 skips (5/leg)
  • Bounding Hops x 10
  • Continuous Broad Jumps x10

Sample Dynamic Warm-Up for Weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting places a high emphasis on ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist  flexibility/mobility. Below, you will find a dynamic warm-up that can be done to enhance body temperature, joint and connective tissue readiness, and movement specific to the Olympic lifts.

Perform the below routine one time through, taking a total of 5-8 minutes.

  • Ankle Rolls x10/direction/leg
  • Knee and Hip Circles x10/direction/leg
  • Active Side and Forward Bends x10/direction
  • Shoulder Circles/Dislocates x 20
  • Elbow, and Wrist Circles x10/direction/arm
  • Neck Circles x10/direction
  • Bodyweight Squat x20
  • Thoracic Extension in Squat x20
  • Cossack Squat x20
  • Glute Bridge/Raise x20
  • Scapular Push Ups x20
  • Side Planks x1 min/side

Sample Dynamic Warm-Up for Powerlifting/Strongman

Powerlifters and strongman athletes must perform many of the same joint actions as Olympic weightlifters (squat, deadlift, press). The above routine for Olympic weightlifters could be a good dynamic warm-up for powerlifters and strongman athletes. The below routine includes slightly different movements that may help place a higher emphasis between sport-specific and some general fitness (power, balance, and non-sagittal movement).

Perform the below routine one time through, taking a total of 5-8 minutes.

  • Jump Rope x100
  • Jumping Jacks x20
  • Knee Hugs and Pulls x20 steps/movement
  • Walking Lunge w Reach x20 steps (10/)
  • Quadruped Thoracic Extension/Flexion x20
  • Quadruped Hip Circles x10/direction/leg
  • Quadruped Fire Hydrants x10/leg
  • Scapular Push Up (in plank) x20
  • Bodyweight Squat x20
  • Shoulder Circles/Dislocates x20
  • Standing Toe Touches to Overhead Reach x20
  • Cossack Squat x20
  • Forward Monster Band Walk x20 steps
  • Lateral Monster Band Walk x20 steps (10/)
  • Banded Hip Raise x20

Warm-Up Better to Crush PRs

Take a look at some warm-up tips from some seriously strong athletes.

Featured Image: J2FIT Strength and Conditioning

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.