If you watch any sporting event, you will see athletes going through an array of different movements and drills before the contest starts. They are all likely doing a dynamic warm-up to prepare their bodies for the contest or competition that is about to take place.
What is a dynamic warm-up, why is it important, and how can I be better at it? Simply put, the dynamic warm-up is composed of a variety of motions, movements, and drills that put the body’s muscles and joints through a full range of motion, all while getting the heart rate up and raising internal body temperature. The routine of the dynamic warm-up should be to start with the most basic movements first and continue to add in more complex and active movements as you go along. For example, you might start your warm-up with a simple knee hug but towards the end of the warm-up, you are doing a lunge complex of multiple movements or even getting into shuffling, form-running drills, or even sprinting. Pay attention to the details when doing the warm-up. The goal should always be to perfect the movement, exercise, or drill. I view the warm-up as a mini 5-10 minute session of being able to train and reinforce proper or better movement patterns. When you view it this way, it is not “just a boring warm-up” anymore. The warm-up should work on mobility, balance, and range of motion in all planes. The beauty is that there are a million variations and exercises, and they are all good, so make it your own. There should be a team warm-up, but at the end you might do a few more drills that you know work well for you personally. The warm-up is important to help you perform at your max potential because you have prepped your body for activity. It will also minimize injury because you have ramped up your activity slowly and are ready for the most dynamic of activities once you have completed the warm-up.
When should you apply the warm-up? Most people and coaches will do this first thing before starting practice or any activity. This is good practice and should always be done. With distance runners, I have also seen where the teams will go out for a nice easy warm-up run and then get into the dynamic warm-up. This works particularly well when doing a quality workout day.
Once the competition has ended it is now time to cool down. The easy button here is to take your team warm-up and do it in reverse. Start with the most dynamic and complex movements and work your way down to the easy, less-dynamic movements and then even finish it off with some light static stretching or foam rolling if needed. The goal of the cool down is to take the body from a heightened state of energy and slowly calm everything down.
Next time you are at a competition, pay attention to the details of the warm-up and the cool down and treat it like a mini workout to prepare your body for the activity that you are going to be doing. You might be surprised that making a few changes or paying more attention will mean better results for you in your event.
Running Specialist, CSCS, CES, College Coach