The Dynamic Warm-Up, Why Do it?

This week I met with a group of high school basketball players starting their pre-season conditioning. They headed straight for the end line to start warm-ups, and then … waited for me to tell them what to do.

Me: Do you have a standard warm up?
Players: (looking at each other) Uh, not really.
Me: Why do you warm up?
Players: (long pause) Um, to get warm?

Eventually, I coax some answers out of them, but it’s clear they have never thought about it.

There are three problems with this scenario:

  1. No structured warm-up guarantees a haphazard approach at best.
  2. Looking to me to tell them what to do means no ownership among the players.
  3. Players who don’t know why they’re warming up don’t buy-in to doing it.

Why warm-up at all?

As a veteran player and coach reminded me recently, “Warm-up is where injury prevention starts.”

Every coach and every athlete in every sport should know how, understand why and be able to properly perform a dedicated warm-up.

Here are the top three reasons we warm up before training or sport performance:

to warm up

YES! It’s a no-brainer. Warm up, warms us up. That is, it increases our body temperature. In warm weather or a warm indoor space, this happens quickly, so the warm-up can progress more quickly. In cold weather and/or a cool indoor space, the warm-up should start more gently and progress more gradually.

to lubricate Joints

YES! Human joints need lubrication just like that squeaky door hinge. To get out the stiffness and to start things moving smoothly, gentle activity squeezes what’s inside the joint compartments, circulating the slippery joint fluid and oiling that hinge.

to Tune In

SURPRISE! You are warming up the communication pathways between the brain and the muscles. Neuromuscular activation dials up the brain-muscle connection to allow a smooth conversation. It wakes up sensations and movement sequences and puts them on alert.

Fail to tune in, and you’ve got random messages unreceived. What does that look like? Uncoordination, imbalance, confusion, stiffness and maybe injury… When the brain doesn’t know what the body is doing, and vice versa, it’s a mess – just like when they first started playing this game!

Successful athletes know they need to warm up:

  • To dial into that training the body knows it has done.
  • To be prepared to play with skill, finesse, and quickness.
  • To activate strength that stabilizes, support and powers up.

That’s also protection against injury. Don’t skip warm up. And if your athletes know WHY they are warming up, they won’t skip warm up either.

Here is a listing of basic steps in a standard dynamic warm up. Find the Fit2Finish Dynamic Warm-Up video here if you want to design your own dynamic warm up.

Sample Dynamic Warm Up

  • Jog forward
  • Jog backward
  • Slide side (facing right- moving left) NO clicking of heels
  • Slide side (facing right – moving right)
  • Slide forward, alternating right and left diagonal (“wizard of oz”)
  • Drop step (backward “wizard of oz”)
  • Knee up and out/open the gate (do as 3-count: step-step-knee up and out, results in alternating legs)
  • Knee out and rotated in/close the gate
  • Carioca left with emphasis high step across in front (1– 2-3-4 and repeat)
  • Carioca right (1– 2-3-4)
  • Step kick to opposite hand (do as 3 count as above) (keep body upright: foot lifted to touch suspended hand)
  • Step and lean forward with arms wide, shaping a T (support leg has a bend at the knee, other leg is straight out behind, ankle flexed, toe down)
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks
  • Sprint to quick, multi-step stop (option: slide 3 steps, turn and sprint)
  • Sprint to quick, multi-step stop (option: backpedal 3 steps, turn and sprint)

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