Dynamic Warmups Make You Stronger, Faster

Stretching is important before a run, but so is a dynamic warmup that consists of exercises like high knees and butt kicks. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Movement Matters

“They taught me immediately that if I wanted to get the most out of my mind and my body — for my cardio let’s say — I needed to work on my movement,” Stensland says. “I was a different athlete in a week simply because of what they taught me.”

She learned how to prepare her body for competition in the most fun but least painful way. Simply put, it was starting at the most basic level of a movement, like squatting, and compounding the movement so it became progressively more difficult and achieving mastery of movement execution. This resulted in the races of her life with times equal or better than her past performances — and without chronic pain or injury. Who wouldn’t want that?

“The overall goal of a dynamic warmup should be two things: to be resistant to injury and perform your best, which equals max efficiency and max power,” she says.

Stensland says these moves activate, elongate and coordinate the muscles to help you toward that end goal of being injury resistant and more efficient. The idea is to prepare the body to react to situations during the run that can cause injury, such as running on unfamiliar trail terrain or getting cut off on the track. If you train your body with dynamic movement, Stensland says, you’ll be more prepared to deal with these unforeseen obstacles at any point during the run because you’ll be warmed up and ready to respond.

’Higher quality workouts’

All of this talk about dynamic warmup is not new. Ask a coach, especially one who has worked at the collegiate or professional level, and you’ll learn it’s been integrated into training programs for decades. Bobby McGee, an endurance coach who’s well versed in running biomechanics and has improved the run times of several Olympic-caliber triathletes, praised dynamic warmup long before the 2010 study. McGee says he’s used these drills with athletes since his track and field coaching days in the 1980s.

“Dynamic warmup fires up neural patterns and recruits muscles by sensibly overloading them and forcing them into a performance mode rather than safe mode,” McGee says. When you correctly prepare your body and muscles for an activity, you’re likely to have higher quality workouts.

RELATED: Don’t Skip Your Warmup

While athletes of all abilities can perform a dynamic warmup, a move mistake could prevent you from activating, elongating and coordinating the muscles. Stensland warns that you could be performing an exercise that’s simply too dynamic for you at the current time or, without a watchful eye, you’d never know if you did the move right or wrong.

“One needs an individual with experience teaching the drills in the beginning and giving the athlete feedback,” McGee says. “Generally if it looks balanced, athletic, and well timed, and if it feels good and flows, it’s OK.”

No one is too old, novice or untrained to reap the benefits of a dynamic warmup. “They serve at their most basic level as an optimal preparatory activity, especially before quality workouts,” McGee says. “But most athletes I work with use them before every workout now. They have a strengthening plyometric effect, which is essential for all athletes.”

You’ve heard the saying that you can only increase your endurance until age 40, and you start losing strength even earlier, right? Slow down those age-related processes with dynamic warmup, which addresses these issues. “In studies on the differences that occur as runners age, the primary ones are loss of strength and functional range of motion,” McGee says.

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