The Ultimate Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises for Running and Team Sports

Ultimate Dynamic Warm Up for Running and Team Sports

Everyone knows that a dynamic warm-up before training or high-intensity exercise is crucial for both injury prevention as well as your athletic performance. However, it’s the one thing that either finds itself on the backburner or ends up being an unstructured “good enough” approach with a few warm-up exercises thought of in the moment.

In this article, we will review the importance of a proper dynamic warm-up before training in any sport involving running, dynamic warm-ups vs. static stretching, and a full dynamic warm-up routine that you can use in your own training.

The Importance and Benefits of Dynamic Warm-Up Before Exercise

The goal of a proper warm-up is to prevent injury, increase joint range of motion, and enhance the function, force, and power, of the muscle groups you will be using during your training session.

A cascade of benefits occurs in your body from a dynamic warm-up, all of which play a role in improving your performance in training. Here are the key factors.

10 Key Benefits of Dynamic Warm-Up

  1. Improves Circulation
  2. Primes Cardiovascular System by Opening Up Blood Vessels and Capillaries
  3. Elevates Heart Rate
  4. Increases Core Body Temperature
  5. Improves Range of Motion and Joint Mobility
  6. Stimulates the Central Nervous System
  7. Decreases Risk of Injury
  8. Increases Muscle Elasticity
  9. Activates Brain-Body Connections
  10. Builds Momentum for Willingness to Exercise

All of these benefits and physiological systems that activate during a dynamic warm-up lead to better training output and improve your longevity in training by reducing injury. Another less-talked-about benefit of having a consistent and well-structured warm-up routine is creating a chain of habits that get both your mind and body ready to train. By the time your warm-up is coming to an end, you’ll be in the zone and prepared for maximum output in your training session.

Static Stretching Vs. Dynamic Warm Up

Static stretching has its place in a well-rounded athlete’s routine. However, using static stretching as a warm-up or immediately before exercise is not the time or place for it – and can actually diminish performance and increase your risk of injury.

Historically, static stretching had long been believed to have its benefits before exercise. However, as the research developed, this long-held colloquial idea deteriorated as the evidence accumulated.

For a brief review of the research findings, a randomized cross-over study published by the Journal of Human Kinetics in 2020 examined the effects of typical static and dynamic stretching protocols on repeated-sprint performance in athletes.

The study noted an increase in average power output performance for the athletes employing a dynamic warm-up protocol and a negative effect in power output for the group using static stretching.

Static stretching also temporarily decreases the sensitivity of pain receptors responsible for governing the appropriate distance your muscles can travel before a tear or injury occurs. For running or explosive team sports requiring powerful changes in direction, these limiting signals to your brain are essential for reducing injury.

A warm-up before exercise aims to improve range of motion through natural mechanisms in the body, which a dynamic warm-up routine facilitates well. While decreasing the sensitivity of pain receptors may provide the illusion of improving your range of motion, the loss of sensitivity in key pain receptors can do more harm than good during high-output exercise.

Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises for Team Sports and Running

Warm-Up Exercise:Distance/Duration:Muscles Targeted:
Walking Knee Hugs20 MetersHamstrings, Hip-Flexors, Glutes, Lower Back Extensors
Walking Quad Stretch20 MetersQuadriceps, Tibialis Anterior, Ankle Plantar Flexion
Forward Lunge With Torso Rotation20 MetersQuadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves, Hip-Flexors, Abdominals, Obliques, Rhomboids, Deltoids
Reverse Lunge20 MetersQuadriceps, Hamstrings, Glues, Calves, Hip-Flexors, Abdominals
Lateral Lunge20 MetersHip-Flexors, Adductors, Abductors, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Abdominals
Walking on Heels20 MetersAnkle Dorsiflexion, Extensor Digitorum Longus, Extensor Hallucis Longus, Tibialis Anterior, Peroneus Tertius
Walking on Toes20 MetersCalves, Achilles Tendons, Ankle Plantar Flexion
Controlled Air Squats10-15 RepetitionsGlutes, Hip-Flexors, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Lower Back Extensors, Adductors, Abductors
Forward and Backward Arm Circles30 Seconds Each SideDeltoids, Trapezius, Biceps, Triceps
Cross Body Arm Swings30-60 SecondsDeltoids, Pectorals, Trapezius, Triceps, Biceps
Front to Back Leg Swings30 Seconds Each SideHamstrings, Glutes, Hip-Flexors, Abductors, Adductors, Abdominals
Side to Side Leg Swings30 Seconds Each SideHip-Flexors, Abductors, Adductors, Hamstrings, Glutes, Quadriceps
Lateral Shuffles20 Meters Each SideHip-Flexors, Abductors, Adductors, Quads, Glutes, Calves, Hamstrings
Bounding20 MetersQuadriceps, Hamstrings, Core, Calves, Glutes, Deltoids
Crossover Skip (Karaokes/A-Skips)20 MetersGlutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Calves, Shoulders, Abdominals
100m Accelerators (Striders)5-10 RepetitionsGlutes, Hip-Flexors, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Calves, Abdominals
Ultimate Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises

Dynamic Warm-Up Savable Graphic

Best Dynamic Warm Up Exercises - Printable Image

How to Create Your Own Dynamic Warm-Up

While this dynamic warm-up routine will accommodate most running and team sports, every sport and activity is different and has a unique set of demands across various muscle groups.

The key to creating your own warm-up routine is first to identify the core muscle groups that will be in the highest demand during your upcoming training session. Water polo, baseball, or tennis, for example, require more upper-body muscle chain activation than a primarily running and agility sport like soccer.

You can use the above dynamic warm-up as a starting point, identifying the crossover of muscle groups shared by your sport or activity. Then, once you have the additional muscle groups required listed out, define a set of active movements the place into the existing framework of the dynamic stretching protocol.

Even if your sport has a high focus on upper-body movements, it is important to still incorporate some of the complex lower-body movements into your active warm-up. The reason for this is to accommodate the cardiovascular, body temperature, and neural stimulation benefits of a dynamic warm-up protocol. 

While it is important to be consistent with putting your warm-up into practice before training and exercise, it is equally important to listen to your body and adapt to its requirements to improve performance and reduce your risk of injury. Over time, you will be able to feel if certain muscle groups are lacking range of motion or power output. At this point, you can make adjustments to your pre-training warm-up to accommodate these changes and notice if it yields improvements to your performance, output, and longevity.

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