Warming up should be a given in anyone's pre-workout routine. Typically, you may hop on the treadmill, bike or elliptical for a few minutes to increase your heart rate and get blood flowing to your muscles. You might even perform a few static stretches for those muscles that seem extra tight.
Sure, that's better than not doing any warm-up at all, but there's a much more effective way to prepare for your workout and see better results.
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Athletes have used dynamic warm-ups for decades. If you've ever attended a football, basketball or baseball game and arrived a little early, you might have seen the players hopping, skipping and jumping across the court or field. They do this because the movement patterns and exercises performed in a dynamic warm-up are drastically better than just going for a jog.
The goal of a warm-up is not just to get the body warm, but also to invigorate your mind and fire up and activate all of the muscles and joints in your body to reduce the risk of injury and to allow you to perform at peak efficiency during your workout.
When your body has a chance to recruit more muscle, muscle fibers and joint flexibility for any workout, you're better able to generate maximal power, in turn increasing performance. Performing specific mobility drills allows your mind to tell your muscles to get ready for the movements in your workout.
Performing mobility and flexibility drills through sport-movement patterns in a dynamic warm-up will allow your body to overcome muscular imbalances and maintain overall fitness. You'll not only increase your core temperature and improve muscle activation, but you'll also improve your range of motion. This helps you perform better and prevent injury during your workout.
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Exercise selection is key: Each exercise you do affects a specific muscle. Neglecting any critical muscles in your dynamic warm-up can hinder your performance. Every dynamic warm-up should have at least one exercise for each part of your body, including movement patterns needed for your sport or activity.
Example of a Dynamic Warm-Up
Total time: 10 to 15 minutes
Perform each exercise for 20 yards each:
Light skip: Get skipping like you're a kid.
Quick skip: Just like an old-fashioned skip, but accelerate the speed and foot quickness.
High-knee run: Just like it sounds -- pull those knees up and get running.
Butt kicks: Kick your heels to your butt with quick repetitive movement as you move forward.
Frankenstein walk to hip swing: As you move forward, swing each leg up high, keeping it straight, as you step.
Cariocas: Move laterally by stepping to the side as you twist your hips front to back.
Knee hugs: Grab your leg under the knee and pull it up as you move forward.
Lunge reach to plank-lunge reach: Get into a forward-lunge position and place your hands on the inside of your foot, resist shoulder to knee to open up the hip, take the outside hand and reach up and look. Hold two seconds, place your hand back down to rock the hips back to a hamstring stretch. Repeat with other leg.
Side lunges: Step to the side into a lunge, come back to original position, repeat on other side.
Inchworm with push-up: Walk your hands out with your legs straight, perform a push-up, step up with your feet to meet your hands and repeat.
Arm-circle skips: Do a basic skip with arm circles forward and backward.
Ankle flips: One foot is on the heel and one foot on is the ball of the foot; move forward alternating heal to ball of foot in a quick fashion.
Glute bridges: Lying on your back, lift your hips off the ground with your arms across your chest to full extension using glutes and hamstrings.
Hard-style plank: This version requires enough tension that it is only possible to hold it for brief periods (10 to 30 seconds). A standard plank lacks this tension and can be held indefinitely. Nothing below the shoulders should be relaxed.
Y's: Lie on your stomach in the prone position, thumbs up, arms straight out in a “Y” formation and lift your arms from your shoulder blades.
A dynamic warm-up is a small investment that will get your muscles fired up to help you make the most of your workout.
Readers -- Do you do a dynamic warm-up before your workouts? Do you feel like it helps you have a better workout? Do you do any of the moves mentioned above? What are some of your go-to warm-up moves? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Lisa Reed, M.S., CSCS, is a USA Fitness Champion, IFBB Pro, personal trainer, educator and motivator. She is also the owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC, where she leads a team of in-home personal trainers in the Washington, D.C., area. Lisa and her team design online fitness and nutrition programs for clients around the world. She has trained hundreds of elite and professional athletes, including tennis player Monica Seles. She was the first female strength coach at the United States Naval Academy and trained top athletes as a strength coach at the University of Florida.