Dynamic Warm Up Exercises: Prepare Your Body For Battle and Avoid Injury With Athletic Drills

I have a confession to make.

I don’t warm up before a workout.

Let me make a correction.  I sometimes warm up before my training.  I am not consistent with this part of my training and I really need to get my act together.

There I said it.  I’m guessing many of you don’t warm up either.  And I’m not talking about some stretching before you start lifting weights.  I’m talking about stuff that gets your CNS (Central Nervous System) fired up.

For a long time I have had this old school approach to training and warming up.  I remember reading Jack Lalanne’s opinions on this a long time ago.

Jack Lalanne:  “15 minutes to warm up? Does a lion warm up when he’s hungry? ‘Uh oh, here comes an antelope. Better warm up.’ No! He just goes out there and eats the sucker.”

I read that and thought, heck that’s good enough for me.

Now if you don’t know Jack Lalanne he was a beast in fitness.  Lived until the age of 96 and was a fitness eccentric.

I admire the man and have since I was a kid.  I also have to give him credit for something else and that is he had a gifted physique and health.

I have followed his approach for a long time but I just can’t do it anymore.

I have to face my limitations.  As much as I would like to be a lion or more like Jack and attack the weights immediately I can’t do it.  I am only setting myself up for injury or lousy workouts

If you are like me you are jumping in to your workouts and you give it a go.  Lift the weights, build up momentum and you are done.

Or maybe you start off with some off hand stretching.  You grab your ankle, pull it behind you and hold it for a few seconds.  Stretch.

Grab your arm, hold it over your head, pull it slightly behind your back and then across your chest.  Another stretch.

Some call that a warm up.  But it isn’t.  That is just simple static stretching and if you do it before a workout it won’t help you avoid injury or the quality of your training.

Or maybe you get on the treadmill and jog for a few minutes and get your temperature elevated this way.

That works at getting your temperature up, get a bit of a sweat on but does that help you prepare for attacking the weights the way you want?

Preparing the CNS

In order to help the body work to its potential you need to get your muscles prepared for battle and not only the muscle fibers but your entire Central Nervous System (CNS).

The muscles, nerve endings, neurons and basically all the system that is in charge of activating your body, from your brain to your spinal cord.

Like any machine (yes, your body is a machine), your body needs to prepare before it can work to maximum efficiency.

If we are going to work with weights in a manner that is explosive, then the best way is to prepare the body for what is to come with an equally athletic warm up and not a slow jog or simple stretching.

Dynamic Stretching Warm Up

Rather than doing simple stretches where you pull your arms or legs to feel muscles pulling try exercises that require your body to stretch and move.

Here are some examples:

Bodyweight Lunges:  You can do walking lunges but it is best to keep it simple and just lunge forward with one leg, hold the lunge position and come back up.  Switch legs and do the same movement.

Shoulder Dislocations:  This is an excellent exercise to loosen up the shoulder area and helps it protect it from injury.

Forward Leg Swings: Start in a standing position and with one leg slightly behind.  Kick the leg that is slightly behind in a forward motion and swing it up to waist level.  This will get the hips and hamstrings loosened up for any lower body workout.  Repeat several times for each leg.

Arm Circles:  Move your arms in wide circles first going forward and then backwards.

Hip Circles:  Stand with your feet at close to shoulder width and move your hips in circles.

Cherry Pickers:  If you remember this exercise from your middle school physical education class you may recall it as a silly movement.  Well, this will stretch your lower back, hamstrings and even your upper body.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart and with your hands reach down and touch the floor.  First touch the floor slightly in front of you, then slightly closer to you and finally the space between your legs, come back up and place your hands on your waist.  Repeat.

Hand Walkouts:  Stand with feet shoulder width apart and place your hands on the floor.  Proceed to walk with your hands and leave your feet firmly planted on the ground.  Walk your hands as far as possible going forward and then walk them back to your starting position.

Superman Exercise:  Get on the floor face down and on your stomach.  Begin by starting flat and then elevate both your arms and legs off the floor a couple of inches at the same time.  Hold the position for 3 seconds and come back down and rest for 3 seconds.  That is one repetition.

Dynamic Warm Up Examples

Now let’s move on to dynamic warm up exercises as these work in great combination with dynamic stretches.

The following dynamic movements will help the muscle fibers with upcoming activity.

Here are some examples:

Jumping Jacks:  Yeah, jumping jacks are a good way to warm up.  Do some for anywhere between 20 and 30 reps.

Overhead Bodyweight Squats:  This exercise can also be done as traditional bodyweight squats but doing it this way will only work the lower body.  Raise your hands above your head as if reaching for the sky and hold this position as you do bodyweight squats.  You will feel the muscles in your back and shoulders working together along with the lower body. Ten reps will work just fine.

Burpees:  You can do it with or without a push up as you please.  As a warm up you can leave a push up out of the movement and without a jump as well.  Do 10 reps in a warm up.

Mountain Climbers:  This movement will work the core and the entire body.  Get in a push up position and move as in a running motion making sure you drive your knees up. 30 seconds of this exercise are good to include in a drill for your warm ups.

Jumping Rope:  I would rather do this as a finisher but you can keep also substitute as a warm up exercise to get the body moving.  As opposed to a finisher which would be performed with high intensity, you can do this exercise at a moderate pace divided by intervals.  Five to ten minutes is enough if done as a standalone exercise.

Knee Tuck Jumps:  This is similar to a bodyweight jump squat, except the starting position is not from a deep squat.  Once you are up in the air the knees come up to waist level or higher and close to the chest if possible.  10 reps will get the body prepped for action.

These are some exercises you can include in your warm up and as you can see they are athletic.

However, the best way to maximize them is by putting them together as a combination.

Dynamic Stretching Drills (Warm Up)

Here is a series you can perform as your warm up next time you are ready to begin your training session.  It is a combination of dynamic stretches and dynamic warm up exercises.

1)      Jumping Jacks (20 repetitions)

2)      Overhead Bodyweight Squats (5 reps)

3)      Bodyweight Lunges (5 lunges per leg)

4)      Forward Leg Swings Leg Swings (5 leg swings per leg)

5)      Knee Tuck Jumps (5 jumps)

6)      Shoulder Dislocations (5 reps)

7)      Arm Circles (10 circles forward and 10 circles back)

8)      Cherry Pickers (10 reps)

9)      Mountain Climbers (do as many reps in 30 seconds)

10)   Superman Exercise (5 repetitions)

This is just a sample warm up and you can substitute some exercises and even change the order which they are performed.

This may seem like a workout in itself but that is the point.  This is like a mini workout or preparation for the real work that is to come.  It shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes but it will get your upper body as well as lower body activated.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, I have not been consistent with warming up.  The weeks and months that I have ever chosen to include drills in my training I have noticed better quality gym sessions.  Believe me, I will warm up without fail from now on.

The best thing to do is include some type of warm up to avoid injury and prepare your body for a productive session.  Maximize your workouts as much as possible and save your body the wear and tear that accumulates over time.

Remember, you are not Jack Lalanne, or an animal ready to hunt and kill its prey.  However, you can train smart, stay healthy and look like an athlete by training like one.

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  1. Good Job as always Sam.
    I tell my athletes: the #1 reason for injury in the weights rooms is no warm up. The 2nd is the wrong type of warm up.

    So good job on educating your readers how to both prevent injury AND perform better! -)

    Mark Kislich
    Olympic Performance Coach

    • Hi Mark,
      I am a walking example of what happens when you don’t warm up properly. I recently pulled a muscle in my lower back doing deadlifts and messed up the same body part while doing squats about 6 years ago all because I didn’t warm up.
      I can also say that when I do warm up the quality in my workouts are superior as well.


  2. Sam,

    I’m a big fan of dynamic warm ups before strength training. P90X utilizes a very good dynamic warmup with jumping jacks, arm circles, etc. Once you get used to the warm up, it’s not too strenuous and really does a good job of prepping your CNS for high intensity exercise.

    Alykhan – Fitness Breakout

    • Hi Alykhan,
      Dynamic warm ups can feel like a workout in itself in the beginning but the body gets used to it pretty quickly. You are definitely right, it prepares the CNS and the quality of workouts is like night and day.


  3. Great info Sam. I’ve been incorporating the same type of warm ups for a few months now and what I noticed is that by the time I’m done, it really energizes my body to a point where I’m so ready to push myself with training and it doesn’t feel heavy on my body. I also like to incorporate standing hip circles and bent-over torso twist at the dynamic stretching as well as butt kicks, high knees, single leg mountain climber and squat jump at the dynamic warm up.

    • Hello Anita,
      I like the exercises you mentioned as part of a dynamic warm up and dynamic stretching.
      High knees are really excellent and get the lower body really fired up. I’ve always been a fan of these and squat jumps for sure.
      I think that even combining the exercises you just mentioned in this order could make for a good warm up!


  4. Great post. I will be launching my new blog soon and would love to have you do a guest post.

  5. Great recommendations on warming up, before running I try to 100 ups with big arm swings to get my body used to the idea that we are going to start running. I keep forgetting that lunges are a great warm-up – Thanks 🙂

  6. Great post! I almost always start off a good run with some A-skips, B-skips, High knees, butt kicks etc. When I don’t I definitely don’t get the same benefits from my run. I needed this reminder, I’ve gotten away from doing this lately *blush*.

  7. Great post! I rarely warm up except when I got to my running group. I am going to give yours a try next time I work out! I know the importance of warming up and this year I am going to make of point of doing it!,

    • Toni,
      I am with you on making warm ups a priority. I wasn’t as consistent for so long and I have noticed they make a huge difference. I don’t don’t skip a warm up anymore and it is worth it.

  8. My blog is up. I’ll be in touch next week about a guest post.

  9. Thanks for including the videos.