Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Movement Quality Within "Dynamic Warmups"

If you grew up any time before the 1990s, the classic warmup was heavy on static stretching.  Fortunately, modern science led to something now called the “dynamic warmup”.  Many coaches and athletes had long practiced dynamic warmups, but recent literature has confirmed the potential benefits not only in the workout itself (Frantz 2011, McMillan 2006) but also over the long term (Aguilar 2012, Herman 2008). 

This post is not to spark yet another stretching debate, but instead to examine best practices in dynamic warmup application.  Dynamic warmups can be great…But many times the dynamic warmup becomes license to throw any ol’ sloppy movements around.  Sloppy warmup movements are analogous to a dieter eating an unhealthy appetizer because its “only the appetizer.”    

It’s true that warmup movements should feel natural within the dynamic warmup.  After all, one goal of the warmup is to simply warm up.  You want just enough cognitive challenge to stimulate the body, but not so much that the warmup’s goal is lost.  Yet it can be terribly frustrating to watch athletes demonstrating bad form during the warmup, despite their good intention to warm up dynamically.  One reason we endorse the Primal Move system for warmup activities is it brings the athlete from prone to standing with a series of progressions and regressions easily adaptable for individual ability. 

Mark Verstegen of Athletes’ Performance describes the dynamic warmup as part of your body’s “boot up” sequence similar to a computer.  The computer can still function without going through its entire boot up sequence but repeatedly bypassing the sequence can cause problems.  Don’t feed bad information to the body’s computer (the brain) with slop during the warmup.

Two solutions

1)      Pay more attention to execution.  Many times the athlete simply isn’t aware they have allowed technique to slip. 

2)      Select exercises that are appropriate for individual ability level.  Coaches tend to recycle from the same dynamic warmup catalog, but recognize that not all warmups are appropriate for all athletes.  If form is suboptimal, fix it, select more suitable warmup exercises, or perform fewer exercises with better form. 

Form will not always be perfect, as you never know what you’ll get until you start moving.  There’s a range of satisfactory form but there’s also a difference between “just getting loose” versus poor execution.  Treat the warmup as the first stage of the workout, and not an excuse to engage in sloppy movement before the main event begins. 


Frantz TL, Ruiz MD.  Effects of dynamic warm-up on lower body explosiveness among collegiate baseball players.  J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Nov;25(11):2985-90. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820f509b.

McMillian DJ, Moore JHHatler BS, Taylor DC.  Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: the effect on power and agility performance.  J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Aug;20(3):492-9.

Aguilar AJDiStefano LJ, Brown CN, Herman DC, Guskiewicz KM, Padua DA.  A dynamic warm-up model increases quadriceps strength and hamstring flexibility.  J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Apr;26(4):1130-41. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822e58b6.

Herman SL, Smith DT.  Four-week dynamic stretching warm-up intervention elicits longer-term performance benefits.  J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jul;22(4):1286-97. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318173da50.


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