Do it Better: Dynamic Warm-Ups


Warm-ups for cardio workouts have traditionally consisted of performing your cardio activity of choice at a lower intensity with gradual increases to higher intensity. While gradually increasing intensity is important, adding dynamic warm-ups to your clients’ routines can add multidimensional benefits to their cardio workouts. It can also serve to enhance their overall fitness and general wellness by decreasing the likelihood of overuse injuries.

Dynamic warm-ups, says Chris McGrath, founder of Movement First, a New York City-based health and fitness education, consulting and training organization, typically consist of integrated movements that help improve muscular strength, mobility, stability, balance, coordination, agility and/or even power. Warm-ups can include foam rolling, balance exercises, yoga-type movements, agility drills and even plyometric drills.

Because most cardio activities are performed with relatively small ranges of motion and are dominant in one plane (straight ahead, such as walking, running, cycling, stair climbing, elliptical, etc.), it is important to incorporate movements that move the body in more complete ways. This should include full ranges of motion, rotation and side-to-side movements.

McGrath suggests incorporating the following into your clients’ dynamic warm-ups:

  • “Loosen” Up. Foam rolling can help reduce excessive tension in chronically tight areas. It can also improve blood flow and circulation. If a client has a muscle that is chronically tight, taking a few moments to “loosen” that area up can be beneficial for his or her workout and protect against overuse and/or unbalanced movements.
  • Extend. Most people spend much of their day sitting, which puts the knees, hips and spine in a flexed position. Counteract this tendency by incorporating movements that extend and lengthen, especially the parts that may be hunched up when sitting (hip flexors, hamstrings and upper spine).
  • Use Full Range-of-motion Movements. Many clients have few opportunities to move through complete ranges of motion during the day. Therefore, they can greatly benefit by introducing full ranges of motion, even if (and perhaps especially because) the cardio workout they will be performing will not.
  • Rotate. The hips and upper spine are designed to rotate more than other parts of the body. If these areas lose that ability, other parts may be required to do more rotating than they are designed to do (for example at the knees and lower back). Therefore, find ways to add mobility to the hips and mid-upper back.
  • Move Sideways. Have your clients spend some time moving the body laterally. Side-to-side movements can wake up lateral stabilizers, resulting in better control and protection for when they do move straight ahead.

With countless variations and exercises to apply, these five movements provide a great framework for designing creative and effective dynamic warm-ups for your clients. And, as mentioned earlier, you can also employ the flow-based properties of yoga to transition from one movement to the next. In the following video, Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT 500, senior advisor for health and fitness education for ACE, demonstrates a six-minute yoga-inspired dynamic warm-up that will help your clients get ready for just about any activity. Urge your clients to follow this warm-up prior to your sessions together or for their between-session workouts.

For more ideas and exercises to include in a dynamic workout, check out these additional resources:

The Dynamic Warm-up Every Runner Should Try

Teach your clients how to take a few minutes to properly warm up with these multiplanar drills and you’ll be helping them run with better results for years to come.

5 Foam Rolling Exercises to Prep for a Dynamic Workout

To adequately prepare your clients for dynamic workouts, they need to do more than just a quick warm-up or a few stretches. To get the blood flowing, increase neural input to the muscles and enhance mental focus, here are five creative foam-rolling exercises that will help fire up your clients for their next dynamic workout. 

Dynamic Warm-up

This continuing education course offers 25 energizing and innovative warm-up exercises to prepare your clients for superior sport performance. These techniques improve flexibility, prevent injury, reinforce proper speed movement and mechanics, elevate tissue temperature, and activate the nervous system. The dynamic warm-up sets the tone for a great workout or competition and can also be used as a stand-alone conditioning routine. 

A Detailed Guide to Designing Activity-specific Warm-up and Mobility Drills

Whether you’re providing a 30-minute session for a deconditioned client or a two-hour workout for a professional athlete, these detailed guidelines and protocols will help you properly prepare your client’s body and mind for a maximally efficient training session.