Workouts

Start Your Workouts Strong

A dynamic warm-up will improve your power and agility. Here’s how to put it to work for you.

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Warming up and stretching. Are these words synonymous? According to a growing body of scientific evidence, they’re not. And if you’re looking to improve your power and agility in the gym, you may want to add a different term to your lexicon — dynamic warm-up. Just as the name implies, it’s not flowing movements and static poses but rather a series of calisthenics and movement drills to prepare your body for the work ahead. Research performed by the U.S. Army found that dynamic warm-ups increase your heart rate, body temperature, muscle and joint pliability, as well as nerve and muscle responsiveness, thus preparing your body for the tough workout ahead.

“You can use dynamic warm-ups before any fitness or sport activity, especially those that involve power and strength, such as resistance training, kick-boxing and cycling,” says Michele S. Olson, PhD, CSCS, FACSM, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Birmingham, Alabama. “A dynamic warm-up prevents the loss of power that can occur when using static stretching as a warm-up [Ed Note: One theory suggests this happens because static stretching activates fewer motor units] and therefore reduces the likelihood of someone overdoing it to compensate for the loss of power and strength that static stretching creates.”

Olson suggests that your dynamic warm-up should be specific to your workout. “Mimic the movements you’re about to do using high repetitions and no weight,” she says. For example, before your leg workout, do some walking lunges, high knee raises and half-squats, all without weight. “Start out slow with lower ranges, begin to increase the range of motion and then speed up the pace,” Olson recommends. “This will allow your circulation to rise to keep pace with the more dynamic warm-up.”

The following pages outline a dynamic warm-up routine that you can do before a full-body workout. It’s based on the U.S. Army research mentioned earlier. Keep your intensity level to a low-to-moderate level to prevent fatigue, which can be difficult since some of these movements are just plain fun to do. Now go warm up!

Image Credit: Alexa Miller

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