To prepare for sports or exercise and to prevent injuries, athletes as well as general population should make warm-ups a priority.
Static stretching—holding a stretch with no movement (such as touching your toes) was once the method most coaches and fitness professionals advocated to prepare individuals for sports activities and workouts.
When later studies pointed to decreases in strength and power immediately following static stretching, that method was abandoned in favor of dynamic warm-ups—those that actively and repeatedly move joints while increasing range of motion over multiple repetitions. For example, leg kicks.
Today, most strength coaches promote both dynamic and static stretching to improve mobility and to decrease risk of injuries. Discussions continue about when to perform static stretching—before or after exercise—and whether it is necessary for everyone. I’ll address those static stretching questions in a future article. The focus of this article: The benefits of DYNAMIC stretching.
In addition to getting blood pumping to muscles, a well-designed dynamic warm-up routine does the following:
Improve Coordination and Movement Patterns
As a result of early sports specialization, minimal free play, and abundant screen time, youth and adults seldom achieve enough diversity of movement. Fewer activities that involve fewer movements lead to reduced coordination and mobility plus increased risk for injuries
Moves I incorporate into dynamic movement routines:
- hip hinge
- lateral, forward, and backward movements
- coordinated movements between upper and lower body
Whether walking, running, throwing, kicking, or changing direction, rarely are we on both feet and in a stable position. Movement requires balance—an important consideration when designing a functional warm-up.
Increase Mobility in Ankles, Hips, Spine, and Shoulders
Dynamically moving through ranges of motion increases body temperature while preparing joints and muscles for vigorous activity. A well-designed warm-up routine, coupled with an athlete who moves mindfully through the sequence, ensures improved mobility over time.
Mobility is different from flexibility.
Mobility is the ability of a joint or joint complex to actively move through a range of motion. Mobility requires strength, balance, and motor control in addition to flexibility. A purposeful dynamic movement routine along with an appropriately designed strength training program will improve mobility.
Flexibility is the ability of connective tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons) to passively and temporarily lengthen. Passive is defined as using body weight or external force to get into position. Flexibility doesn’t necessarily indicate mobility.
Prepare Bodies Physically and Mentally for Training and Competition
Moving while stretching increases power, range of motion, and mobility. A strong warm-up routine moves dynamically through a variety of movement patterns that require strength, balance, mobility, and coordination, all to prepare mind and body for training and competition. Dynamic warm-ups can also simulate sports moves, specifically preparing mind and body for particular activities.
A good dynamic routine increases blood flow to muscles, improves mobility, balance, and coordination, while preparing bodies mentally and physically for training and competition. Together, these warm-up attributes go a long way to reduce incidence of injuries.
Dynamic Mobility Routine by Youth Sports Trainer
Created for Athletes and General Population for Use at Home, At the Gym, or On the Field
I created the following dynamic mobility routine to use as a warm-up before strength-training sessions, sports practices, and sports competitions. It’s a series that I also advocate—and perform myself—at home to break up time spent sitting. In addition to getting blood pumping to muscles, this dynamic series of exercises improves balance, strength, and mobility. When the routine is repeated several times consecutively, it serves as a low-intensity cardiorespiratory workout. Watch the Dynamic Mobility Warm-Up video (below).
- Walking Butt Kick (20x)
- Walking High-Knee Pull (20x)
- Pendulum Kick (10x each leg)
- Walking High Knee with Hip Stretch (20x)
- Walking Lunge with Arm Over (20x)
- Squat with Scap Touch (10x)
- Hip Hinge with Arm Swing (10x)
- Arms Extended Rotation (10x)
- Diagonal Knee to Shoulder (10x each side)
- Ankle Rock (15x)
- Lateral Hop (20x)
- Single-Leg Ball Toss (20x each leg)
- Jogging Butt Kick (20–30 yards down and back)
- High-Knee Skip (20–30 yards down and back)
- Zig-Zag Hop (20–30 yards down and back)
- Zig-Zag Lateral Shuffle (20–30 yards down and back)
- Finish with a Few Jogs to 3/4 Sprints