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

Five minutes of this before one run can make a world of difference.

You know you’re supposed to warm up your muscles and joints before you head out for a run. But did you ever consider that the way you perform that warmup could be hurting, not helping, your run? It’s true.

New research supports what many respected coaches have known for years: The preferable pre-run warmup should include movements that are designed to activate and elongate your muscles.

“There are many reasons to warm up before exercise but a dynamic warmup combines prepping the cardiovascular, neuromuscular and muscular systems in an integrated manner,” says Bob Seebohar, an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a USA Triathlon Level III elite, youth and junior certified coach. “It provides athletes more ‘bang for their buck’ and may also reduce the risk of injury.”

Also known as movement preparation, a dynamic warmup is comprised of exercises like squats, monster walks and hip extensions, where you actively turn on and tune in those muscles for the activity you’re about to pursue. It almost feels like a workout in itself, unlike pre-run static stretching — the practice of reaching until you hit a point of tension and then holding the stretch.

A study published in September 2010 in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that static stretches performed before a run, especially a long run, may lower endurance performance and increase the energy cost of running. Static stretching can reduce muscle strength and muscle-tendon stiffness, which in turn impedes the run.

RELATED: Dynamic Vs. Static Stretcing

Dynamic movements build intensity before the actual event and prepare the body for peak performance. You want to engage in a dynamic warmup to help prepare your body to handle the demands of the exercise you’re about to put it through, says Jessi Stensland, a former professional triathlete and creator of MovementU, an online resource and workshop series for educating athletes about moving the body efficiently and powerfully.

Stensland noticed the benefits of dynamic movements first-hand when she nearly walked away from triathlon competition in 2004. She was at the top of her game, ready to compete in the Olympic Trials, but she nearly quit after being plagued with injury and reaching rock bottom when it hurt to swim, bike and run. It was body awareness that saved her. As she puts it, “I have to give my body what my body needs,” and she latched onto the Core Performance protocol, which stresses movement preparation — or dynamic warmup — and proper form.

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