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Dynamic Warm-up for Sports


Preparing for participation in any sport is accepted as being essential for improving performance and preventing injuries. The athlete should be able to begin the game or training session totally ready to perform at maximal intensity if required. The dynamic warm-up will transition the athlete from rest to high intensity exercise over a short amount of time. The physiological reasons for warming up are to:

  1. Increase core temperature 1º - 2º
  2. Increase heart rate and blood flow to muscles
  3. Improves oxygen uptake
  4. Carbon dioxide and Lactic acid removal
  5. Increase activation of the Central Nervous System
  6. Improves coordination, skill accuracy, and reaction time
  7. Improves concentration
  8. Increase the rate and force of muscle contraction
  9. Increases contractile efficiency
  10. Increases isometric strength and dynamic strength
  11. Increase suppleness of the connective tissue
  12. Decreases incidence of muscle, tendon and ligament injuries

(Above from Dynamic Warm-up Routines for Sports, by Adrian Faccioni)

Recent research finds that static stretching is counterproductive when used as part of a warm-up, especially when used at the end of the warm-up. Holding stretches for time decreases the force of muscle contraction, decreases muscular endurance, and decreases the activation of the central nervous system. Part of power generation comes from what is called stored elastic energy or "stiffness" in the muscle and tendon. Too much static stretching can make the muscle overly compliant meaning the muscle loses its "stiffness." In addition, static stretching makes it harder for the nervous system to send signals to the muscle that tell the muscle to contract. Simply put, static stretching makes you weaker and slower when used just before athletic performance.

However, static stretching is still an important training method for increasing flexibility and should be used after training or competition as part of a cool-down.

What exercises constitute a dynamic warm-up?

A dynamic warm-up is comprised of controlled movements through an individual's active range of motion for each joint. Do not think of these movements as stretches or strengthening exercises per se; they combined the aspects of strength, flexibility, and coordination in order to prepare the athlete for sports and prevent injury. It is important to stress that these movements must be performed within an individual's capabilities; each movement is NOT to be pushed to the extreme of one's range of motion or muscle tension. As each repetition is performed, range of motion and muscle tension will be gradually increased. Movements progress from easy - requiring less strength, flexibility and coordination - to hard, further enhancing active range of motion, muscle tension, and coordination.

Each repetition of each exercise must be performed with proper technique. This is called grooving proper motor patterns. Remember, garbage in, garbage out - teaching the body to move incorrectly and inefficiently diminishes performance and increases the chance of injury.

There are dozens of different movements that can be performed. Selection of these movements is dependent up the ability level of the athlete and their sport. For example, a baseball team will perform more upper extremity movements than a soccer team during their warm-up.

Each movement can be repeated for time or repetitions. The total amount of time spent is about 10-15 minutes. At the end of this time the athlete is ready to start his/her practice or competition.
(Fletcher and Jones, 2004)

Helpful links:

JMU - Dynamic Warm-up - Video

Soccer Dynamic Warm-up - Pictures

Minnesota State University Dynamic Warm-ups - Pictures