Workout Wednesday: Dynamic Warmup

While I may not believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I’m a firm believer that a good dynamic warmup (the “breakfast” to your workout?) is one of the most important parts of any fitness program. And that is why, before giving you any more WW posts with actual workouts or lifts, I’m going to let you in on my little secret.

Just kidding. It’s not a secret. It’s just my dynamic warmup.

Almost as exciting as a secret though, right?

The funny thing is that I recorded the video below about 2 years ago now, and despite it’s age (and my much shorter hair), the base of my DWU is basically the same. I change the order around a little bit and spend a bit more time on some things than others, but for the sake of the video, all of the essential ingredients are there.

So first off, why is a dynamic warmup so important in the first place? A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you a couple of hip mobility exercises that I include into my warmup (and yes, you’ll see them briefly in the video – I really do do them regularly!) but those are just one piece of the whole puzzle. Although our hips require a little TLC sometimes, it’s important to increase blood flow to all of your muscles, not just the ones surrounding the hip. And more importantly, it’s not only your muscles that need a warm up, your central nervous system needs a little wake up as well.

What the What? Why Can’t I Just Stretch? 

Static stretching, the old method of gearing up for a workout, has actually been shown in the research to provide no decrease in chance of injury. In fact, there is a large school of thought that stretching “cold” muscles could lead to injury in itself. Thus, in short, the dynamic warmup was born. Going through a series of gradual, progressive, dynamic movements gives your body the opportunity to increase blood flow to muscles, lubricate muscles, fascia, and joints, and to “wake up” your central nervous system. Since the CNS is the leading force behind all of your movements, it is important to get all neuron paths firing correctly before you start to move any heavy weight or begin any physically stressful workout.

So why can’t I just hop on a stationary bike? 

While riding a stationary bike for a few minutes will increase your blood flow and heart rate to gear you up for exercise, unless you are gearing up for a bike race, it will not adequately wake up your CNS for the specific movements that you are about to do. Deadlifting, squatting, pressing — these are all very specific movements that we are asking our bodies to perform during workouts, and they deserve specific movements when warming up.

For instance, on a squat day, I’ll incorporate a lot more deep squatting movements to my warm up. On a deadlift day, I’ll incorporate more deep hip work as well as some lat warmups/mobilization as well. Moving your muscles and tendons through their full range of motion before adding any weight to them will help things to glide more smoothly once their load is increased with barbells, dumbbells, etc.

And yes, a dynamic warmup will be beneficial even if you’re not slinging any heavy weight. Running, group classes, hill work– any workout you can think of will benefit from a good dynamic warmup before hand.

The video below is a little bit of a sped up version of what I do before a workout. First, I begin with foam rolling. I then go into a similar series of exercises as depicted in the video, however I usually spend a little bit more time on each before moving on. For example, the video is about 4 minutes long, but my dynamic warmup generally takes about 10 minutes, and I’m usually sweating a slight amount by the end of it. Remember that things are sped up here for the sake of time — this is definitely a part of your routine that you don’t want to rush!

The above shows the following exercises in order:

  • Knee hugs – remember that for the knee you’re pulling toward your chest, pull those toes toward you (don’t let your foot just hang there like a limp fish)
  • High  Knees
  • Butt kicks
  • Walking lunges
  • Walking RDLs – remember to keep that back flat and move the leg/torso as one unit.
  • Squat hinges- As this is an old video, my mobility is not great here. Keep that back nice and flat!
  • Spiderman Lunges
  • Side Lunges/Hip mobility
  • Down Dog/High Plank/Push Up combo – I play around with this movement a little bit more on Deadlift days to really wake up my lats.

Remember, this is just an example of exercises to add into your dynamic warmup. There are many different things that you can add in depending on what your tighter areas are, what you’ll be doing for a workout that day, and also how you’re feeling on one particular day. Glutes feeling extra tight today? Spend a bit more time on hip mobility and figure-4 work than I’ve depicted here.

And keep in mind the most important aspect of the DWU: This is not a race. Take your time, be present, and let your muscles guide you. Each day may feel a little bit different, and some of these exercises will become easier over time the more that you do them. Remember that warm and mobile muscles are happy muscles, and happy muscles lead to better workouts.

Combine this dynamic warmup with the hip mobility drills from a couple of weeks ago, and you’ll be increasing your range of motion in no time, leading to better and more effective workout sessions.

Readers: Do you tend to take the time for a good warmup before a workout? Do you notice a difference between days that you do a dynamic warm up and days that you don’t? What other exercises do you include in yours?

3 thoughts on “Workout Wednesday: Dynamic Warmup

  1. I do dynamic workouts, just not very long… Probably not long enough. It definitely helps in terms of my range of motion during my workouts. Great article!

  2. Super helpful, Stephanie! I love dynamic warm ups, but have to admit I don’t spend enough time on some of the areas I really should be spending time on (hips, for instance)… warm ups and cool downs, even though I know how important they are, tend to be where I skimp out- BAD, I know! That is a goal for 2016, though- spending more time properly preparing for workouts and cooling down after, which is especially necessary when lifting heavier weights! thanks for sharing 🙂

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