Dynamic warm ups are seen throughout athletic, strength, power, and fitness sports training. While most dynamic warm ups are often focused on total body movements to enhance overall readiness for athletic competition and training, we can use various movements to allow lifters to become maximally prepared for upper body focus training days/events.
Therefore, in this article we will discuss the importance of performing a dynamic upper body warm up and offer coaches/lifters a sample dynamic upper body warm up routine to enhance performance and readiness to train.
Why Should You Do a Dynamic Upper Body Warm Up?
Below are four (4) benefits of performing a dynamic upper body warm up prior to upper body centric training days/events.
Improve Blood Circulation
Improving blood circulation can help to pump oxygen rich blood (see below) to active muscle tissues, help to clear out any metabolic byproducts that may be causing some soreness within muscles, and can improve overall circulation to working muscles.
Deliver More Oxygen to Working Muscles
The more oxygen rich blood a muscle tissue has the greater it can perform both anaerobic and active exercise. While upper body strength training is often anaerobic in nature, increased oxygen availability will still help to improve work capacity of the body and improve recovery between working sets.
Restore and (Potentially) Improve Mobility
The goal of performing mobility and light stretching before a training session should be on actively maintaining or gaining any mobility/movement before soreness and stiffness from a previous training session. The key is to not perform the dynamic warm up exercise with a focus on challenging “end range” mobility and movement as this can be highly exhausted and challenging on the muscle units. If this is something you’re concerned about, it may be best to do this on a less intense training session (after a warm up to increase body temperature and blood flow) and/or after hard training sessions.
Minimize Injury Risks
Performing a dynamic warm up may potentially help to increase injury resistance due to lack of mobility and muscular readiness to perform more challenging movements; all of which could result in pulls, strains, and/or other common injuries that arise from improper warm-up routines.
Improve Mental Preparation
Increasing mental readiness is a large part of an athletes ability to train hard and stay focused throughout challenging training sessions. A thorough dynamic warm up allow an athlete the opportunity to mentally prepare for the hard training session ahead to psychologically be ready to train.
When Should You Do a Dynamic Upper Body Warm Up?
Like most warm ups, the dynamic upper body warm up should be performed before any static stretching and/or mobility exercises/drills, yet prior to actual training. In doing so, you can increase the above physiological and psychological markers (discussed in above section) and enhance overall upper body pulling and pushing performance.
Dynamic Upper Body Warm Up Basics
Below are three factors that can enhance a dynamic upper body warm up. It is important for coach and athletes to remember these three factors when programming and coaching lifters/athletes through the below dynamic upper body warm up routine.
Keep moving throughout your dynamic warm up to help increase core body temperature and blood circulation. This will help to kickstart the metabolic processes that occur during training session. In addition, this will help you save time and work up a light sweat so you can go into your training session fully prepared to get after it.
Full Range of Motion
The purpose of working the full range of motion prior to training is to help restore normal movement in the muscles, joints, and connective tissues. The goal here should not be to forcefully increase mobility and flexibility (as this can be demanding on the body prior to training), but rather to “take what your body gives you” in terms of movement. After training sessions, you can then work to increase end range mobility and flexibility as the muscles and connective tissues may be more receptive to this.
Progress into More Explosive and Demanding Movements
As with most warm ups, it is important to not jump into the most complex movements first, as the body has not been able to properly increase blood flow, elevate core temperature, and become neurological prepared for more challenging exercises (balance, stability, and ballistic movements). Start with slight movements that demands lower levels of intensity to ease your body and mind into hard training sessions.
Sample Dynamic Upper Body Warm Warm Up Routine
Below is an upper body dynamic warm up routine that can be used to increased muscle coordination, readiness for more explosive and forceful training session, and potentially to decrease the likelihood of injuries during hard training and competition. The below movements should be performed in a series, with the athlete focusing on proper mechanics and fluidity of each exercise. Additionally, you will find additional movements you can add into the dynamic warm-up and/or immediate afterwards to further boost performance.
- Jump Rope x 200 (or 2-3 minutes)
- Arm Circles x 20 per direction per arm (start with small circles, and build circumference)
- Forward Arm Circles x 20 per direction per arm (start small small circles, and build circumference)
- Cat Cow x 20 (focus on full extension and flexion of the thoracic spine)
- * Scapular Slides (retraction, protraction, elevation, and depression) x 10 per movement (perform in slow and controlled manner)
- Side Lying Thoracic Openers x 20 (10 per arm)
- Yoga Push Up x 20
- Side Plank x 30-45 seconds per arm
- * Scapular Push Ups (from forearms) x 20
- * Shoulder Dislocates (with Band/PVC Pipe) x 20
- * Band Tear Aparts x20
- Bench Supported Blackburns x 10-15 per movement
Scapular slides, done in the quadruped position, are a great upper body corrective/warm up exercise to develop scapular stability and strength. You can challenge athletes/lifters to protract, retract, depress, and elevate their scapulae, all of which are necessary for proper overhead, pulling, and pressing movements. Perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions per movement (scapular retraction, protraction, depression, elevation)
Scapular Push Ups
These can be done while in the plank (either forearm of tall position) to strengthen scapular stability and retraction. Perform these for 10-20 repetitions in a contracted and controlled manner. More advanced lifters can even add weight to this movement by placing weight plates upon their backs.
Shoulder Dislocates (Weighted Variations)
This is a standard movement for shoulder mobility and stretching of the biceps and pectorals. Simply perform this with either a resistance band or PVC/wooden pipe/rod for sets of 15-20 repetitions, making sure to not overextend the lumbar spine. Lifters can also do these lying prone on the floor or bench, with light loading to strengthen the upper back and scapular muscles.
Band Tear Aparts
The band tear apart is a great exercise to strengthen the posterior shoulder muscles and scapular stabilizers. This is often seen in most upper body warm ups for weightlifters, powerlifters, and functional fitness training athlete programs.
Sample Dynamic Warm Up Routines
Take a look at some of our other dynamic warm up routines for fitness workouts, running, and more!
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