By Nolan Kowal, Sport Performance Specialist

Warming up for physical activity is a common and well-known practice. Every athlete has at some point been instructed by a coach to run a lap before the game or to stretch it out before the first inning starts, and the list goes on. But what is less known are the differences between various forms of warm-ups and the benefits they can bring to an athlete.

Dynamic warm-ups (DWU) prepare an athlete’s body for physical work by:

  • increasing heart rate
  • activating the central nervous system
  • expanding the range of motion of muscles and joints
  • increasing the body’s core temperature
  • increasing blood circulation throughout the body

This differs from static stretching alone, which focuses solely on loosening muscles and joints through stationary strains on muscles. Dynamic warm-ups are much more specific to the athlete, who needs to be able to move their body in dynamic ways during sports or training.

Why should I be doing DWUs?

  • they help prevent injury as well as improve athletic performance*
  • they enable higher strength measures*
  • they create higher vertical jumps*
  • they allow for quicker sprint speeds compared to static stretching*
  • they’re an important part of resistance training programs
  • they help recruit muscles that will be used in the major lifts

Dynamic Warm Ups










The basic format of DWUs allow these benefits and should last from 10-20 minutes.

Step one:

Perform an activity to raise the heart rate such as jogging, doing ladder drills or playing an aerobic-based game.

Step two:

Work through dynamic stretches such as walking lunges with overhead reach, leg swings, inchworms or a straight leg march to increase muscle and joint range of motion.

These two steps increase the body’s core temperature, encourage blood circulation–which functions to optimize the athlete’s body for delivering the nutrients and oxygen needed for activity–and increase muscle and joint range of motion.

A major principle of DWUs is that the warm-up should mimic the movements that will be performed in the activity. For example: volleyball DWUs could include a squat walk or arm swings. The purpose of this is to ensure the movements that will be stressed in the sport are adequately warmed up.

Dynamic warm-ups can be used by any level of athlete and at any age. The only exception should be if an injury would be stressed by performing the movements in the DWU*. For instance, an athlete with a quad strain should rehab rather than dynamically stretch the injured muscle.

Chances are your warm-ups may already look similar to a DWU but where possible, try to incorporate the major movements that will be stressed in your activity. The goal is to prepare your body to endure the activity while also optimizing your performance.

Simply put, a DWU should raise your heart rate and core temperature, get your blood pumping, and mobilize the muscles and joints to be used in your activity through dynamic movements.

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By Kyle Bergen


Naperalsky & Anderson, 2012
Fowles, Sale, and MacDougall, 2000
Holt and Lambourne, 2008
Stewart et al. ,2007
Naperalsky & Anderson, 2012