February 08, 2022 8 min read
Not all warm-up exercises are created equal. Some will get your heart rate up without priming any muscles while others lightly activate muscles without pushing them through a full range of motion.
Done improperly, warm-ups aren’t worth much, but a dynamic warm-up routine will put you in the right mindset and get your muscles ready for action.
Read on for a list of the best dynamic warm-up exercises and find out how to include them in your workout plan.
We’re not trying to knock static warm-ups here, but they do have their limits. They’re great for stretching joints and getting more limber before a workout but they aren’t as effective for priming your muscles. Remember, you want to get your body ready for the exercises you’re about to do.
So unless you’re gearing up for an isometric workout routine, static stretching will only take you so far.
In the same way, you don’t want to prepare for your weightlifting routine with a jog. Steady-state cardio has many health benefits and helps you shed fat, but it’s not priming any of your lifting muscles. Even if you’re trying to get a better workout on leg day, running is better done at a low intensity after a workout just to build muscle endurance.
Essentially, you want to warm-up by mimicking the workout you’re about to do.
That’s why athletes are so into dynamic stretching. Functional strength is the key. Many pro lifters and seasoned gym veterans begrudge the new crowd of buck-fifty lifters obsessed with this functional strength. But the truth is, for people who aren’t going to be competitive lifters, building muscle you can use is more beneficial.
Dynamic stretching, which requires limited motion but not explosive energy like you’d find in a plyometric exercise, is better preparation for strength training and resistance training.
Static stretching is better for cooling down after a workout while dynamic stretching is better for blood flow and putting muscles through their full range of motion rather than joints.
In a static stretch, you hold one position for a short time, as opposed to dynamic stretches which include additional movement. Both increase your body temperature and prime parts of your body for exercise, but dynamic stretching is better preparation for weightlifting.
What exactly are we talking about when we say dynamic stretching? Is it some kind of complicated yoga program? Tai-chi? Not quite.
Dynamic stretching is simply a more active way of stretching.
You’re probably already familiar with some of the most common dynamic stretches. Arm circles, jumping jacks, leg raises, and certain lunge variations are great examples. The idea is to focus on one specific movement and repeat it until your muscles are loose and ready for a workout.
For instance, if you want to open up your hip flexors, you would use a hip flexor stretch that includes a slight trunk rotation in a kneeling position. We’re all concerned about injuries during our workouts.
Dynamic stretching can target some of the most easily injured areas of the body, such as the knees, hips, shoulders, neck, and spine.
It can also prime muscles like the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves, which all cross two joints and therefore face a greater risk of injury, broadly speaking.
Adding dynamic stretching and taking PUMPED-AF before your workout are great ways to prime your muscles.
In addition to priming your muscles, dynamic stretching may even help them perform better during the workout. It can also prevent injury and soreness during and after your exercise.
That’s one of the big sticking points with static stretching - past a certain duration, it can make your muscles perform worse in your workout. Though some researchers still recommend short-duration static stretching before a workout or during the cool down, dynamic stretching can do the same job better.
Dynamic stretching stimulates the nervous system as well as increases blood flow better than static stretches do.
We’ve even heard it claimed that such stimulation can lead to strength benefits across the body, not just in the areas you’re targeting with your workout. Whether or not this can be substantiated, anyone who tries dynamic stretching will have plenty of anecdotal evidence of its efficacy. You’ll feel more prepared and get through your first sets with greater ease when your muscles and ligaments have been properly prepared with dynamic stretching.
Use the following warm-up exercises to get the full benefit of dynamic stretching during and after your routine.
This is a simple warm-up exercise that even provides a bit of cardio.
Be mindful you aren’t hopping during your high knees, though, since that movement is less controlled and won’t be as effective.
Even this seemingly straightforward warm-up isn’t without some mild controversy. Do you inch out with your arms or legs? We’ll chalk it up to personal preference.
Prime your hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, and calves with this exercise. You might need a chair to stay balanced.
This is more of a challenge than the leg swings, but the two pair really well together for a full dynamic lower-body warm-up.
This is a particularly good warm-up because you can also hold onto some free weights and break right into your leg day routine. Just watch your knees because they probably aren’t used to the movement of this exercise.
You can make this warm-up more challenging by raising your leg off the ground higher or wrapping a resistance band around your legs.
Moving onto the upper body,
you can open up the shoulders and arm muscles with this simple exercise. We recommend rotating your arms in both directions to get the most variety out of it.
Open up your lower back with this fast rotation warm-up. You can also use it to relieve minor back pain or cool down after intense hinging exercises like the deadlift.
This is a great warm-up before bodyweight chest exercises like push-ups or intense bench pressing sessions.
Get your shoulders primed for a workout with this quick warm-up. All you need is a flat wall with no light switches, lamps, or other obstructions.
There are two times you want to bring these stretches into your program: before and after a workout.
While static stretches also work to cool down after you work out, dynamic stretches work better and they’re just a bit more fun to do if you prefer to be in motion.
Don’t use resistance bands or try to get a workout from these exercises unless you’ve already gone through your normal routine and want to push some muscles toward exhaustion.
Also, make sure you only use four or maybe five of these warm-up stretches on a given day.
While dynamic stretching is great for warming up and cooling down, you still only want to spend a few minutes on them.
Aim for less than 10 minutes for your entire warm-up and focus on waking those muscles up during that time.
Not only do they get your muscles moving like they will during your normal routine, but dynamic stretches also improve blood flow and increase body temperature better.
All this helps prevent injury and prime your muscles better than static stretches.
It doesn’t take much time away from your routine to run through a few of the dynamic stretches in this guide and you’ll be grateful when you see improved performance and hopefully prevent any serious injury. With the right preparation, your workout routine will be even more effective.