Why Athletes Need an Effective Dynamic Warm Up

Post attributed to Glenn Steele, MA, ATC, CSCS, and FAST facility manager

The Importance of an Active Dynamic Warm Up Prior to Training and Competition

Glenn Steele has a master’s in Human Performance and Sport, is a certified Athletic Trainer and Strength & Conditioning Specialist, and is the FAST facility manager at our Gilbert location. He explains why an active, dynamic warm-up is important for athletes, whether it be before a practice, a work-out, or a major competition.

Performance Enhancement

The warm up should be the first component of any sports performance training program. It’s important to have an effective active warm up in order to boost body temperature, increase blood flow to the active muscles, activate muscle groups, stimulate the nervous system, and enhance joint mobility. Performing an active warm up correctly prepares athletes for success while decreasing the potential for injury when moving to the next component of a training session, practice or game.

The physiological responses elicited by the active warm up not only prepare the body for movement, but also carry out significant functions in enhancing the athletic performance. One key response to the warm up is the elevation of core body temperature, usually shown by mild perspiration. A higher core body temperature lowers the tissue viscosity of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This means there is lower resistance in these tissues, which leads to an increased range of motion, or how far your body can be moved in different directions. From a performance aspect, an increased range of motion allows for improvements in movement mechanics as well as increased production of force.

In addition to core body temperature, the temperature of working muscles also increases in response to the warm up. Compared to muscles at homeostatic, average temperatures, a warm muscle contracts with more force and also relaxes in a shorter amount of time. The ability of muscles to contract forcefully and relax more quickly enhances both strength and speed during training or competition.

Another goal of the warm up is to increase oxygen delivery to the muscles by increasing blood flow. The two primary metabolic and chemical mechanisms that increase blood flow to muscles are an increase in heart rate and vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels). The heart then receives signals from the nervous system, stimulating a faster and more forceful pumping action. At the same time, blood vessels open up and send more blood to the muscles, which means more oxygen as well. The increase in blood flow and oxygen availability to muscles through the warm up enhances performance by increasing aerobic energy production for prolonged activity.

Performance is further enhanced by the warm up when the movements being utilized duplicate or are similar to those learned or practiced in prior training sessions. In this scenario, valuable motor skills are rehearsed while serving as the warm up. Using functional movements to warm up your body increases the rate at which you learn skills, and accelerates the rate of an athlete’s training.

Injury Prevention

While there are various internal and external factors that contribute to sport related injury, proper warm up can considerably reduce the chance of injury. As previously stated, warm up activity can lower the resistance of muscles, tendons, and ligaments resulting in increased range of motion. This mechanism plays a significant role in injury prevention as athletes also experience a decrease in muscle and joint stiffness. This creates an environment in the body that helps to reduce the likelihood of non-contact injuries that would be caused by the stresses of sudden and unexpected movements if you hadn’t warmed up properly.

Active Dynamic Warm Up

An active dynamic warm up consists of multi-joint, multi-muscle movements that are functional, similar to sport movements, and extend the dynamic range of motion of joints. Beyond the physiological responses discussed earlier, this movement preparation method also requires balance and coordination, increases concentration levels, and prepares flexibility and mobility necessary to perform athletic skills.

Dynamic Flexibility

The active dynamic warm up uses dynamic stretching to address dynamic versus static ranges of motion. Dynamic stretching requires you to move your body through its entire range of motion, and is the most athletic based method of flexibility training. Static stretches, on the other hand, require you to simply hold your body in the same position for a certain period of time. When performing sport skills, athletes usually have to reach a larger range of motion than can be reached through a static stretch. In view of that, dynamic stretching addresses this difference in movement expression.

When compared to static stretching, dynamic stretching appears to be a more appropriate method for training or competition preparation. Research has shown that static stretching may actually produce acute inhibition of strength and power performance. There seems to be a dulling effect in the muscle’s ability to produce force after stretches are held for an extended period of time. Simply put, if an athlete executes a static stretching routine and then attempts a maximal vertical jump, chances are they would score below their optimal or normal performance. Due to this effect, static stretching should be performed as a post-session cool down method. Performing static stretching at the end of a training session or competition will avoid the potential drawbacks while still improving range of motion and reducing soreness due to training.


Foam rolling This method involves massaging muscles with a foam roller, which increases nutrient rich blood flow by un-knotting trigger points within the muscle. It is performed at the start of a training session in order to increase local muscle temperature and temporarily reduce muscle soreness and tightness.

Thermogenic Movement usually is 3-5 minutes of continuous rhythmic movement. The goal is to elevate core body temperature and increase heart rate to where the athlete begins to perspire. Examples are jump rope and jumping jacks.

General Mobility are activities used to increase blood flow, take joints through ranges of motion, and prepare the body for movement. They are generally executed at a low exertion level at the start of the warm up. Examples are neck clocks, arm swings, and trunk and arm circles.

Muscle Activation are isolated movements used to stimulate specific muscles and generally performed after core body temperature is elevated. The targeted muscles are those important to posture, stability, and force production during speed and agility training. Examples are knee hug walking, leg cradles, elbow to instep walking, lunge and twist, and straight leg marching.

Transit Mobility are activities that take joints through a specific range of motion while traveling over a certain distance. These movements are designed to reinforce athletic movement and increase dynamic flexibility, while also increasing the intensity of physical exertion. Examples are skips, shuffles, cariocas, and backward jogs.

Dynamic Mobility are activities that take joints through an explosive or rapid range of motion. Similar to transit mobility, activities in this category generally are done in place and offer a final increase in intensity. Examples are squat thrusts, donkey kicks, wall leg swings forward and sideways, and lunge drops.

At FAST, our fitness experts can provide you with a personalized training plan that will allow you to achieve your full potential as an athlete. To find out more about FAST and what we can do for you, schedule a free assessment online today. To learn more about Phoenix personal training and achieving peak athletic performance, follow our blog.

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).