For a better sweat session, warm up your muscles and joints first.
If you like the sound of “more muscle, less injuries” and “maximum performance, minimum risk,” then you should be warming up before every sweat session. And not just any type of warm-up, but a dynamic or “moving” warm-up.
The right dynamic warm-up movements can not only get your muscles ready to work, but can also get your mind ready to work as well.
“The purpose of dynamic flexibility or a dynamic warm-up is to increase tissue temperature and extensibility (the ability of muscle to lengthen/shorten) by doing a variety of different movements in different directions and speeds to increase mobility of the mobile joints (ankle, hip and thoracic spine) and improve neuromuscular activation of the involved muscle tissue,” says Pete McCall, MS, CSCS.
The Benefits of the Dynamic Warm-up
Whether you’re a beginner in the gym, gearing up for a fitness class or a veteran of the weight room, you should be warming up before your workout. Here’s why …
- Your muscles need to get loose, warm and ready for action, especially if you sit hunched over a desk all day.
- Movement can help activate your central nervous system and improve circulation, which can boost your effort and performance.
- A proper warm-up prepares your muscles and joints for maximum flexibility so you can achieve proper form.
- You’ll improve your movement quality and increase your range of motion.
- Active preparation increases blood flow, brings fluid to your joints and opens up your body.
- Warming up eases you into a workout, mentally prepares you for exercise and gets you into the zone — helping to free your mind from stress or worry.
In addition, a dynamic warm-up increases your core temperature and range of motion, which helps alleviate stiff and inflexible muscles. Dynamic drills and exercises pump your heart, increase respiration and deliver oxygen to muscles. Your body is revved up to run.
And you don’t get these benefits from still stretches. In fact, according to a study by Simic, et al., short-term bouts of static stretching significantly decreased muscle strength and explosive muscle performance. The study’s findings also strongly suggests avoiding static stretching as the single warm-up activity, says Breaking Muscle.
Six Dynamic Warm-up Exercises To Try
Ready to get moving? The best warm-up progression will start at a slow pace and build with intensity as the heart rate rises. You should break into a sweat during the warm-up process and it will take between 10 to 15 minutes total.
- Walking lunges: Take a large step forward and sink into a lunge position. Drop your hips and keep your torso upright as you drive your heel to bring your other leg forward, returning to your starting position. Don’t let your knee travel past your foot. For greater intensity, perform jumping lunges in which you jump into a lunge position and then jump (in place) to switch legs. Continue to alternate.
- Bodyweight squats: Your feet should be shoulder-length apart and toes slightly outward. Descend into a squat position. Squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to ascend. For greater intensity, perform air squats into which you jump off the ground each time you ascend and then land into the squat position as one continuous movement.
- Spiderman steps: Begin in a push-up position with your arms beneath your shoulders. Bring one leg forward and rest it outside your hand. Extend your opposite arm to the ceiling and look toward your raised hand. Hold for a few seconds and alternate legs as you travel across the floor. This dynamic stretch is also a great mobility drill for preparing the hips, joints and thoracic spine for exercise.
- High-knee skips: Spike your heart rate with these movement preparation exercises. Pull up your knee for an exaggerated skip, but maintain a 90-degree angle. Practice this coordinator drill and you’ll get your body ready for work.
- Forward and side leg swings: Lean on a stable object and swing one leg forward and backward, and then from side to side (in front of your body) as far as you can. Move slowly and with control in a single smooth movement, until you reach your full range of motion.
- Mountain climbers: Begin in a push-up position. Bring your left leg forward and set your foot outside your left hand (similar to the Spiderman). In a fluid motion, switch legs, bringing your right leg forward and setting your foot outside your right hand. Continue to alternate. These explosive movements help build power in the lower body and core strength.
Continue to change up your warm-up routine and add dynamic exercises to your repertoire, such as jumping rope, iron cross, push-ups, hip bridge, bear crawls and the scorpion.