Healthy and Active: Improve Performance with a dynamic warm-up

Do you perform a proper warm-up before your squash match or run through the arboretum? Engaging in a 10-minute dynamic warm-up before exercise may be the best way to improve performance and decrease risk of injury. A dynamic warm-up is a series of sport specific movements that prepare the body for exercise. This type of warm-up maximizes active ranges of motion while preparing the body for the demands of training and competition.

For clarification, stretching and warming-up are two different activities. The primary goal of stretching is to increase flexibility whereas a dynamic warm-up prepares the body for exercise and sport. Static stretching, the kind we all did in gym class as kids, holds stationary positions for 15-30 seconds. Traditional beliefs regarding the routine practice of pre-exercise static stretching have recently been questioned. We may see this practice gradually disappear, along with the misconception “no pain, no gain.”

The benefits of a dynamic warm-up are many. Increased blood flow to muscles, a raise in core body temperature and enhanced oxygen delivery (muscle fuel!) are some of these benefits. Nerve-impulse speed, increased rate of muscle force development and improved body awareness are also perks. Prior to his recent retirement, Usain Bolt could be seen hopping, skipping and lunging trackside before an event. All these movements were part of his dynamic warm-up.

Both general and sport specific dynamic warm-ups should be performed. Good warm-ups for running include walking lunge and forward lunge with trunk rotation. Walking slowly and progressing in speed to a jog over 3-4 minutes is considered a dynamic warm-up and will get the body ready for competition on the field or court.

Ten to fifteen slow body weight squats followed by lateral skips and lateral shuffle for 1-minute each direction will get blood pumping into the legs and trigger increased oxygen delivery to muscles. Arm windmills, where you alternate reaching down to the opposite foot from standing, is a great warm-up for sports that are more demanding on the arms such as tennis, swimming and golf. Horizontal arm circles and arm swings provide similar benefits.

High knee walks, slow and controlled bear crawling and even jumping jacks are more of the many movements that are great dynamic warm-ups. Before engaging in full speed running and sport your body needs to be prepared. Just think, “sweaty is ready”. If your progressive warm-up makes you sweat a bit you’re probably ready for your higher intensity training or competition.

Although Olympic medals aren’t guaranteed, a pre-exercise warm-up may improve your sport performance. For a list of our top 10 general dynamic warm-up movements, including descriptions and pictures, email with the subject line “Warm-Up”.

Aaron Shaw is an Occupational Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and founder of MoveMend in Madison Valley. Contact him at 206-641-7733 or visit