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A more efficient, effective, and engaging workout starts with a dynamic warm-up that properly prepares your body for the activity to come. Commonly referred to as "movement prep," a well-rounded warm-up routine can help decrease the risk of developing overuse injuries by addressing underlying muscle imbalances and enhancing the quality of the movements you perform during your sweat session, whether it be a cardio- or strength-based workout that's on your agenda. [Tweet this fact!] While there is not just one "right" way to warm up, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind when constructing your warm-up in order to get the most of your exercise.
Roll It Out
Begin your warm-up by focusing on self-myofascial release using tools such as a foam roller or a tennis ball to decrease trigger points and "knots" (also known as adhesions) within muscles by applying pressure to commonly tight areas of the body. Addressing tissue density first will help relieve tension and also increase blood flow, improve mobility, and enhance overall movement quality.
When it comes to injury prevention, ensuring adequate joint mobility is a must. Being that the body is one kinetic chain, it is comprised of certain joints that tend to favor stability (such as the knees and lumbar spine) as well as those joints that favor mobility, including the ankles, hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders. To get more out of your movements, your dynamic warm-up should focus on enhancing range of motion specifically in these four areas.
Functional movements such as squats and lunges are not only staple exercises in our workouts, they are movement patterns we perform every day outside of the gym, from walking and climbing up stairs to lifting a heavy box off the floor. Performing movements that mimic these primary movement patterns also serves as a dress rehearsal for specific exercises for a given workout, activity, or sport, and can help increase core body temperature, address movement deficiencies, improve joint range of motion, and reduce the risk of developing injuries. (Related: 50 Must-Know Fitness Tips to Score Your Best Body)
While there are many movement and exercise options to choose from, a dynamic warm-up should be designed in a way that best serves your unique needs and personal health and fitness goals. Below is a sample dynamic warm-up that puts the previous guidelines into practice in a way that will prepare you for just about any type of workout:
1. Foam Rolling to address tissue density (15 seconds per exercise)
2. Cat/Cow to reduce spine viscosity (5 to 8 reps)
3. Bird-Dog to enhance spinal stabilization (5 to 8 reps per side without weights, alternating sides)
4. I, Y, T, W Raises to improve shoulder stability and mobility (5 to 10 reps each, holding each for 1 to 2 seconds)
5. Kneeling Prisoner Rotations to improve thoracic spine mobility (2 to 4 reps per side)
6. Leg Swings and Hip Circles to improve hip mobility (5 swings moving front and back, 5 circles clockwise, and 5 circles counterclockwise per side)
7. Standing Ankle Mobilization to promote ankle mobility (5 to 10 reps per side)
8. Hip Hinge and Bodyweight Squats to emphasize glute activation and promote stability and mobility throughout the kinetic chain (10 reps each)
9. Lunge Matrix consisting of forward, backward, sideways, curtsey, and angled lunges to promote stability and mobility throughout the kinetic chain (3 sets of 1 rep of each lunge)