OrthoVirginia Blog

Ready to Race: The Dynamic Warm-up

Well, the day is finally here!  You’ve made it through the months of training, the grueling workouts, the long runs and the sore muscles.  Once the gun sounds, every step you take is one step close to your goal of reaching the finish line or capturing a new PR.  But before you step to the starting line, it’s important to prepare your body for what is about to happen to it – that’s where the dynamic warm-up comes in.  Gone are the days of kicking your leg up onto the back bumper of your car for a quick, thirty second stretch for the hammies or pulling your foot up behind you to stretch out the quads.  These days, it’s all about the dynamic warm-up.

The purpose of the dynamic warm-up is to prepare the body, particularly the muscles and joints, for the specific activity of running.  By moving dynamically, you are able to promote blood flow to the muscles, increase tissue temperature, and improve range of motion of the joints.  Preparing the muscles and joints in this way allows for better performance and reduced risk of injury because the body is ready to handle the stress of running (and hopefully running fast!).   So before your next big race, try some of these tips to improve your warm-up routine – and you just may find yourself with a new personal best!

Goals of the warm-up:
  • Increase tissue temperature to improve tissue extensibility.
  • Decrease neural tension that may be limiting joint mobility.
  • Prepare the body neuro-muscularly for the activity of running.
Warm-up Activities:
1. Use a foam roller, massage stick or lacrosse ball to address “tight” muscles.The primary goal of this activity is to decrease any tension in the muscles that may be limiting joint mobility.
2. Activate the muscles with activation exercises, focusing on a strong contraction with a hold of 3 seconds.Muscles to target include gluteal muscles and calf muscles.Try glute bridges, side-lying clam shells or calf raises with a three second hold of the muscle contraction at the top of the movement.
3. Perform dynamic movement/stretching to the muscles that will be active during running.Leg swings can be used to improve mobility in the anterior/posterior and lateral hip.Body squats can address both ankle and hip mobility.
4. If you are getting ready for a race or just a hard workout, drills can be used to prepare your body neuro-muscularly for the activity of running.Skipping, grape vines, butt kicks and striders prepare the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and calf muscles for the running movement that you are about to perform.