Written on December 20, 2011 at 7:22 pm, by Eric Cressey
The dynamic warm-up is an extremely important component of a strength and conditioning program. In addition to reducing the risk of injury while enhancing subsequent performance in a variety of contexts, it’s also a great place to implement corrective exercise drills to address underlying muscle imbalances.
With that in mind, to get the most out of your dynamic warm-up, keep in mind these six characteristics of an effective pre-training program.
1. A good dynamic warm-up should be preceded by soft tissue work.
Every one of our clients at Cressey Performance goes through the following foam rolling series (at the very least) prior to their first warm-up drills.
For a bit more on the rationale behind foam rolling, check out this post of mine from a few months ago. Needless to say, it’s important – and will make your dynamic warm-up far more productive.
2. A good dynamic warm-up should progress from ground-based to standing.
When I write a warm-up, I want athletes to do all their ground-based activation and mobility drills first, rather than mix them in with standing exercises. This works not only for the sake of convenience, but also in terms of facility logistics: traffic throughout the gym is more predictable. As an example, I might use a wall hip flexor mobilization to improve hip extension range of motion before I’d get an athlete up to do lunge variations in the standing position.
I like to see things progress from ground-based, to standing in-place (e.g., scapular wall slides, bowler squats), to standing and moving.
3. A good dynamic warm-up should progress from single-joint to multi-joint movements.
We might do a rocking ankle mobilization or quadruped extension-rotation early in the warm-up to work purely on ankle mobility and thoracic spine mobility, respectively, but once the warm-up progresses and one becomes upright, all the joints need to be working together in an appropriate balance of mobility and stability. Just count how many different pieces are in place on this drill:
4. A good dynamic warm-up addresses mobility at the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine.
Even if people just worked on these three areas (to the exclusion of everything else) and then moved on to the rest of their strength training programs, the world would be a much healthier and high-performance place. Throw on restrictive footwear and sit hunched over a desk all day, and these are the areas that will suffer the most – so make sure you’ve got drills for each in the warm-up. Keep in mind that while one drill each for the ankle and thoracic spine mobility will be sufficient for most, it’ll likely take several to take care of the hips, as they need to be moved in all three planes of motion.
5. A good dynamic warm-up should take into account joint laxity.
This is something I have to keep in mind all the time, as many of our baseball pitchers have considerable congenital joint laxity. Their joint ranges of motion are already so good that we don’t need to do much (if at all) in terms of mobility work. Rather, we do substantially more low-level activation drills during the warm-up period to teach them how to stabilize joints prior to more intense exercise. Conversely, if you have someone who is as tight as a drum, chances are that you can be more aggressive with mobility drills, knowing the subsequent stability will come more easily to them.
6. A good dynamic warm-up should actually increase body temperature.
I see a lot of people who drag their heels going through a warm-up, thinking too much or simply wasting time along the way. You don’t need to do 20 different drills, but rather select 8-10 drills and do them at a pace that allows you to get your body temperature and joint range of motion up sufficiently to be prepared for a more specific warm-up (e.g., light deadlifts). If you take it too slowly, it just won’t have the same effect. While everyone is different when it comes to perspiration, I like to see athletes sweating a little bit by the end of the warm-up.
These are just a few quick and easy guidelines I like to keep in mind when writing the dynamic warm-ups in our strength and conditioning programs. Of course, each client has unique needs – from actual physical limitations to space/equipment limitations – that one must take into account as well.