Skip to navigation menu Skip to content
Please click here to read our COVID-19 policies and resources before your visit or appointment. X


Athlete warming up

The Importance of a Dynamic Warm-up

By: Christine Moore, ATC, VATL

As an athletic trainer, finding as many ways as possible to reduce injuries is one of my most important tasks.

According to Jessi Stensland, a former professional triathlete and creator of MovementU, the overall goal of a dynamic (active) warm up should be two things: to be resistant to injury and to perform your best - which equals maximum efficiency and maximum power.

Recent research supports the theory that an athlete’s warm up should include movements designed to actively lengthen and contract the muscles that will be used in the sport. The goal of this active, or dynamic, warm-up is to increase body temperature. With an increase in temperature, the heart rate, oxygen levels and blood flow increases as well. Muscles, ligaments and tendons are supplied with oxygen making them more elastic and pliable, in turn making them more resistant to injury. A good warm up also mentally prepares the athlete for activity. As the blood flow to the brain increases, concentration and awareness are enhanced. This improves motivation, focus and commitment to the upcoming activity.

With time being a factor in most practices, another benefit of a dynamic warm up is efficient time management. By eliminating traditional static stretches in favor of dynamic stretches before activity, the muscles are being stretched at the same time the body is being warmed up.

All dynamic warm ups should begin with a five-minute period of cardiovascular activity, such as light jogging, followed by exercises that address all major muscle groups, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and hip flexors, using common movements like high knees, butt kicks and lunges. All activities should be done in a slow and controlled manner, with emphasis placed on proper form. Vary your warm up routine using eight to ten different movements, keeping the distance at around ten to fifteen yards yards. Some examples of good warm up movements include:

High Knees – Forward jog bringing knees up to waist level with each stride.

Butt Kicks – Forward jog, bringing heels to buttocks with each stride.

Carioca (grapevine) – Move sideways while crossing your lead leg in front, then behind, the other leg. Drive the knee up and over while crossing in front.

Side Shuffle – Move laterally while in a squat position, stay low, and shuffle sideways.

Figure 4 Walk – While walking forward, raise your knee and grab the ankle, gently pulling the leg across your body into a figure 4 position.

Back Pedal – Run backward extending your legs as far behind you as they will reach.

Frankenstein March – Move forward by kicking alternating legs up, with legs straight and arms outstretched, trying to touch fingertips to opposite toes. Keep back straight.

High Knee Pull – Walk forward, with each step raise knee up to hip height and grab around shin with both hands, pull leg in close to the body, raise up on the toes of the planted leg.

Toe Pull – Step forward and flex foot, heel on the ground and toe pointed up, reach down and pull toes back.

Quad Stretch Reach – Grab one ankle behind you and pull back gently, reach opposite arm toward the sky.

Lunge Elbow Reach – Lunge forward with one leg. Reach the elbow on the same side down toward the ground inside of the lunging leg while keeping the back toes on the ground.

Lunge Open Up – Lunge forward. Lean upper body forward over lunging leg, turn body to open the opposite side shoulder toward the sky.

Open The Gate – Walking forward, with each step lift knee forward, rotate hip and knee out to the side, then bring foot to the ground.

Close The Gate – Walking forward, with each step lift knee to the side, rotate hip and knee forward and then bring foot to the ground.

Inchworm – Start with legs straight and hands on the ground in front of feet, walk hands out to push-up position with back neutral, then walk feet forward towards hands without bending knees.

 Examples of dynamic warm up activities can be seen in the video below: 


Like this post?

Sign up to receive our once monthly email with up-to-date sports performance and sports medicine information from CHKD's sports medicine experts.

About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.