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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.

Dynamic Stretching Vs. Static Stretching

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 Is Dynamic Stretching?

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.

Benefits of Dynamic Stretching

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.

Best Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises

Use the following warm-up exercises to get the full benefit of dynamic stretching during and after your routine.

1. High Knees

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.

How To Do The High Knees Exercise:

  • Start in a standing position with your hands at your sides.
  • Lift your right leg and left arm at the same time. The right knee should bend until your thigh is parallel with the floor and the left arm should go out in front of you. 
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the same movement with your left leg and right arm, bending the right knee this time. 
  • Repeat until you reach 10 - 12 reps on each leg.

    2. Inchworms

      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.

      How to Do The Inchworm Exercise:

      • Get into a forward plank position like you would for a push-up. Remember to keep your wrists stacked and your back flat. 
      • Depending on your preference, either take steps forward with each foot or backward with each hand until your hands and feet are together and your butt is up in the air. 
      • Whichever way you got into that awkward stance, use the other limbs to  crawl back out into the push-up position. 
      • Repeat 10 - 12 times. 

        3. Leg Swings


          Prime your hip flexors,  hamstringsquads, and calves with this exercise. You might need a chair to stay balanced.

          How To Do Leg Swings:

          • If you’re using a chair, stand behind it with one chair on the back. If not, place your hands on your hips. 
          • Kick your right leg forward as high as you can without using too much force. Let it swing back down and then back behind you a short distance before returning it to the starting position. 
          • You can either continue with the right leg until you’ve done 10 - 15 reps or your can switch to the left leg and alternate until you’ve done the same number of reps on each side of your body. 

            4. Carioca


              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.

              How To Do The Carioca Exercise:

              • Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
              • Cross your left leg over your right leg and place it just outside your right foot. 
              • Now move your right foot behind the left leg to get back into the same starting position slightly to your right. 
              • Repeat the same motion 10 times in one direction and then do 10 more to get back where you started. If you’re not working with much room, do a rep in one direction and then the other. 

                5. Lateral Lunge


                  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.

                  How To Do The Lateral Lunge:

                  • Beginning in a standing position, step out to the left with your left leg. Make sure you step slightly forward as well so that you can keep your toes pointed straight forward throughout the entire exercise. 
                  • When you get your left foot flat on the ground, bend the left knee and move your whole body to the left in a lunging motion. Do this at a controlled pace to avoid undue stress on the knee. 
                  • Push through your left foot to get back into the starting position and repeat the same motion with the right leg. Run through 10 of these on each side. 

                    6. Hip Circles


                      You can make this warm-up more challenging by raising your leg off the ground higher or wrapping a resistance band around your legs.

                      How To Do Hip Circles:

                      • Stand with your hands on your hips and raise your right leg slightly in front of you or out to the side, whichever feels more comfortable. 
                      • Rotate the right foot clockwise 5 turns and then counterclockwise 5 turns.
                      • Bring the right foot back down to the ground and repeat the same process with the left foot. Do 3 sets on each leg.

                        7. Arm Circles


                          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.

                          How To Do The Arm Circles Exercise:

                          • Stand with your feet in a wide stance and lift both arms out to each side at shoulder height. 
                          • Slowly move both hands in a clockwise direction. Complete 5 - 10 rotations and then reverse your rotation to go counterclockwise for the same number of reps. 
                          • Count out 30 seconds of this exercise and aim to go in each direction at least three times. 

                            8. Trunk Twist


                              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.

                              How To Do Trunk Twists:

                              • Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet in a slightly wide stance. 
                              • Rotate your trunk to the right as far as you can go but do so slowly. 
                              • Hold the stretch at the furthest position for a second or two, then return to the starting position. 
                              • Do the same rotation in the other direction, hold, and return. 
                              • Rotate 10 times in each direction.

                                9. Dynamic Chest Stretch


                                  This is a great warm-up before bodyweight chest exercises like push-ups or intense bench pressing sessions.

                                  How To Do The Dynamic Chest Stretch:

                                  • Stand with your feet slightly apart. Raise your arms in front of you and place your palms together with your thumbs pointing up.
                                  • Pull your hands apart until your arms are extended to either side. Your upper body should make a T-shape. 
                                  • Hold the stretch at the furthest point and then return to the starting position. Aim to do this 10 times. 

                                    10. Wall Slides


                                      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.

                                      How To Do Wall Slides:

                                      • Stand with your back against a flat wall, making sure that your entire back is in contact with the wall. Your hands should be above your head with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and the backs of your hands and arms touching the wall as well. 
                                      • Extend your arms completely above your head without losing contact with the wall at all. Move them back down to the starting position.
                                      • Run through 10 - 15 of these. If you’re cooling down after an ab workout, combine these with a wall sit to exhaust your core at the same time. 

                                      How To Use Dynamic Stretches In Your Workout

                                      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.

                                      Dynamic Stretches Are Superior For Warm-Ups

                                      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.