A lot of people out there like to hop on the treadmill or spin bike, take a few laps around the building, or row for 10 minutes and consider that a sufficient warm-up prior to exercise. While that’s all certainly better than performing no warm-up at all, including proper dynamic drills in your warm-up can be beneficial for a variety of reasons.
- You can utilize dynamic warm-ups to assess your own movement patterns and limitations.
- You can utilize dynamic warm-ups to mimic the movements that are about to occur in your program.
- You can utilize dynamic warm-ups to perform the boring “prehab” component that you always like to skip out on.
Whether athlete or adult, we like to individualize the dynamic warm-up to provide them with both prehab-specific tasks they need to address, as well as to get them prepped for the individual workout they are about to perform. Our Adult Performance members who need extra attention are provided with additional exercise drills that they either perform prior to class, between sets, or as homework. By assessing movements (such as in a dynamic warm-up) instead of specific muscles, we are able to paint a bigger picture for determining potential injuries. The bottom line is this: asymmetries contribute to injury, and if you have asymmetries in your warm-up you most certainly will have asymmetries when you’re under a load. You can’t out-row or out-jog dysfunction.
Here are three basic movements that you can try out and incorporate into your dynamic warm-ups:
Knee Hug to Lunge
What it tells us:
- The knee hug component allows us to assess an individual’s single leg capacity and determine if there are structural alignment issues, muscular imbalances, or overall balance issues.
- The lunge component allows us to assess single leg stability, muscular imbalances, reinforces a basic foundational movement, and provides an opportunity to emphasize conscious core control (utilize your free hands to monitor core stability).
What to look for:
- The Knee Hug component:
– Are the hips stacked properly and remain in line with the ribs and shoulders? Or does one hip hike or drop more so than the other?
– Does the torso lean more predominantly to one side?
– Is the elevated foot able to remain dorsiflexed (toes pointed up), or do the toes drop in a relaxed fashion (ie. foot drop)?
Why this matters: all of these compensations allow us to determine if the individual will be predisposed to injury or irritation during the training session. If you are unable to stand in a single leg stance without compensation, how do you expect the hip to handle the 3x bodyweight force it will be absorbing with each walking step (and even more with each running step)? If you aren’t able to sufficiently dorsiflex your ankle, the knees and hips (and surrounding musculature) will compensate in order to lift the foot so it doesn’t drag along the ground (foot drop isn’t something we see often, but with injury or compensation it can occur).
- The Lunge component:
– Does the knee of the lunge leg cave inward (ie. valgus collapse)?
– Is their a predominant low back arch, excessive anterior pelvic tilt, or rib flare?
– Is the individual able to maintain core control and neutral posture?
Why this matters: all of these compensations allow us to determine if the individual will be able to perform a variety of physical tasks. Single leg stability exercises should be emphasized prior to jumping into the “big lifts”; core stability, core control and posture drills should be programmed prior to allowing the individual to perform any overhead movements. If you can’t control your core with your arms at your sides, how do you expect to do so once they are elevated overhead away from your center of mass?
Lunge with Rotation
What it tells us:
- The Lunge component helps us determine the same issues as discussed in the aforementioned “Knee Hug to Lunge” exercise.
- The Rotation component allows us to assess postural alignment, core stability, hip mobility and thoracic rotation mobility.
What to look for:
- The Lunge component: see “Knee Hug to Lunge” section
- The Rotation component:
– Is the rotation occurring at the thoracic spine (mid-back) or lumbar spine (low-back)?
– How much thoracic rotation (right and left) is the individual getting?
– Is their sufficient hip mobility, or does the hip rotate internally as seen in the picture on the right (and thus the lumbar spine)?
– Is their any forward head posture as seen in the picture on the right?
Why this matters: for rotational movements (ie. rotational sports such as hockey, tennis, golf, baseball etc.), individuals lacking sufficient hip mobility are at a greater risk of low-back pain compared to individuals with sufficient hip mobility. Furthermore, before recommending any type of rotational power exercises, we want to ensure that the rotation is coming from the proper areas (both hip mobility and thoracic mobility). If you lack mobility and can’t maintain a stable lumbar spine with a simple bodyweight exercise, how do you expect to perfect your golf swing or generate power on your slap shot? Hips are the body’s powerhouse. Not the spine.
Lateral Lunge with OH Reach
What it tells us:
- The Lateral Lunge component allows us to assess hip mobility, adductor length, and single leg stability in the frontal plane.
- The Overhead Reach component allows us to assess core stability, full shoulder flexion ROM, scapular upward rotation, lat length and thoracic extension mobility.
What to look for:
- The Lunge Component:
– Is their sufficient adductor length? Is the back leg able to remain straight or does the knee bend?
– Does the lunge leg cave inwards?
– Is their sufficient hip hinge, or is the movement dominated by the knees?
- The Overhead Reach component:
– Is neutral posture maintained? Or is there forward head posture?
– Is the individual able to get overhead without any compensations occurring at the low back or neck?
– Are the elbows bent?
– Do the scapular rotate upwards fully and posteriorly tilt?
Why this matters: First, if the individual has tight adductors or lacks the hip hinge pattern, they certainly won’t be able to squat, deadlift, lunge or sprint properly. If the individual can’t achieve full shoulder flexion or reach their hands overhead without compensation, they most certainly will compensate once they put load on the bar and try to press overhead. If the individual has tight lats restricting their overhead movement, they shouldn’t be performing any lat dominant exercises in their programming (ie. chinups). If the individual can’t control core stability, they will certainly compensate with their neck or low back, resulting in a myriad of injuries and improper movement patterns.
Including a dynamic warm-up isn’t just something you should be doing to get your heart rate up. It should be used as a conscious opportunity to focus on proper movement patterns and to address any limitations you may have. Some people like to make the claim that once they are warmed up (even if it is with a jog around the building) that they automatically move better. The fact of the matter is, movement patterns shouldn’t just be reinforced prior to exercise. You should be attempting to move well as often as possible. Let’s face it, no one is going to warm-up prior to dumping a bag of salt into their water softener, or prior to changing their winter tires. You need to be able to have proficient movement (in the right places) so you can live the remaining 23 hours of your day injury-free. Move well, and move well often. That’s what maximizing your dynamic warm-up is all about.
Train smart and hard.
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