Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises for a Safe, Effective Workout

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier explains why dynamic warm-up exercises are more beneficial than a general warm-up and offers five sample movements.

Stretching Lunge

Before you head to the squat rack or take off on that 5-mile jog, do you perform any dynamic warm-up exercises? They are much more beneficial than a general warm-up—e.g., a few static stretches or jogging in place. Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching requires you to move as you stretch your muscles to increase your range of motion and improve the flow of blood and oxygen in your body.

Two examples of dynamic stretches are a Standing Cross Stretch (raising your left arm overhead and reaching down across your body to touch your right ankle 10 times, then repeating with your right arm to your left ankle) and a Forward Lunge and Overhead Raise (gently lunging forward with your right leg while simultaneously raising your arms overhead 10 times, then repeating with your left leg.)

Below are five more dynamic warm-up moves. Choose one before your next practice or workout to enhance your sports and exercise performance.


  • Hydrate before the dynamic warm-up and also during and after practices, games and workouts.
  • Perform a few warm-up sets to raise your core temperature. Devote extra time to warm-up movements outdoors in colder weather or first thing in the morning when your muscles are especially stiff.
  • Keep moving even after you're warmed up. Muscles tighten when you're sitting around during games. So keep moving—not only when playing in colder temperatures, but also to prevent cramping during warm or hot weather.
  • Do 3 sets and rest 15 seconds between sets.


  • Light to moderately heavy med ball (about 60% to 80% of your 1RM)
  • Water bottle

Dynamic Warm-Up Movements

1. Forward Lunges and Arm Circles

Arm Circles make for an excellent dry-land warm-up for swimmers. They also effectively warm up the shoulder muscles for athletes who use overhand throwing motions, such as quarterbacks and pitchers. Forward Lunges warm up the legs and hips for multidirectional running.

To warm up your lower- and upper-body muscles, alternate lunges with your left and right legs for a distance of about 10 yards while making small to large circular movements with your arms held at shoulder level. Rest and repeat two more sets.

2. Med Ball Wall Roll-Ups

Effectively warms up the shoulders, arms, chest, legs and hips.

  • Assume an athletic stance facing a wall one or two feet away and holding the ball at chest level.
  • Using your fingertips, slowly roll the ball up the wall as high as you can (rising on your toes).
  • Slowly lower as you descend to a squat position.
  • Perform 5-10 reps (three sets).

3. Side Lunges and Med Ball Twists

Effectively warms up the core (middle, lower back and abdominal muscles and inner thighs), legs, hips, shoulders, chest and arms. These muscles need to be warmed up for twisting and turning and lateral movements on the field, court, mat or ice.

  • Hold the med ball with your arms extended at chest level.
  • Simultaneously lunge laterally right while rotating your body with the med ball to the right.
  • Bring your feet together and continue Side Lunges/Ball Twists for 10 yards.
  • Without rest, perform left Side Lunges/Ball Twists for 10 yards.
  • Rest and repeat two more sets.

4. Single-Arm Overhead Stretches and Reverse Lunges

  • Simultaneously raise your left arm diagonally overhead toward your right side while lunging backward with your left foot.
  • Perform 10 reps, then do 10 Overhead Right Arm Stretches/Reverse Lunges with your right foot.

This movement warms up lower body, upper body and core muscles (especially oblique muscles during the Overhead Diagonal Stretch). Reverse Lunges warm up the muscles used in backpedaling on defense in football, lacrosse and soccer, or running backward to catch a fly ball during a baseball/softball game, or backpedaling to return a tennis serve.

5. Alternate Open-Gate Walks and Arm Press-Outs

Open-Gate Walks warm up the inner thighs, hips, quadriceps and hamstrings—great for multidirectional running and for hockey players and goaltenders moving in many directions. Outward Press-Outs warm up the upper-body muscles for swimming or pushing away opponents.

  • Step forward with your left foot.
  • Bring your right knee toward your waist and out in a semi-circular motion while simultaneously pressing your arms away from your chest and out in a semi-circular motion (mimicking a swimming stroke, moving your arms out and laterally away from your body).
  • Continue without rest, walking forward with your right foot and raising your left knee up and out/arms pressing out.
  • Alternate for 10 reps.
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