Remember high school gym? Running laps around the track because you mouthed off to the gym teacher was meant to be a punishment, but the joke was really on him. While you ran around the track and watched your friends stretch their hamstrings, you were doing what’s called a dynamic warmup. (Well, sort of.) A dynamic warmup consists of exercises you do before training that mimic the movements you're going to do while training. These exercises loosen your muscles and tendons, increase blood flow throughout your body, and activate your nervous system so you’re ready for action. Dynamic exercises are typically better to do before training since static stretches—holding a stretch for a specified amount of time—can lead to injury if done pre-workout. (That’s why they’re better left for after your workout when you need to cool own.) Now that you’ve grown up and have replaced dodgeball with competitive sport, it’s even more important that you warm up properly.
BEST DYNAMIC EXERCISES TO DO BEFORE TRAINING
Alternating Reverse Lunge
Stand with your arms at your sides. Squeeze your abs and step backward with your left leg, lowering your body until your right knee is bent at least 90 degrees. Push back into the starting position and repeat with
your opposite leg. Do eight reps on each side.
Start in a standard pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders, forming a straight line from head to heels. Lower yourself to the ground like a normal pushup. As you push back up, slightly roll your feet, reach your left hand to the sky, and make a straight line from one hand to the other. Return to the pushup position. Lower yourself again, this time pushing up and rotating to the opposite direction. Perform five reps on each side.
Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
Stand on your left leg with you knee slightly bent. Pick your right foot off the ground. Without changing the bend at your knee, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel with the floor. (You can put your arms out to the side for stability if you like.) Your right leg should be off the ground, making a straight line with your body. Return to the standing position. Do eight reps on your left leg, then eight reps on your right.
Side-to-side Leg Swing
Stand tall and hold onto a chair or other object with both hands. Keeping your right knee straight, swing your left leg as high as you comfortably can out to the side. Swing it back toward your body so it crosses in front of your right leg. That’s one rep. Swing back and forth until you complete eight reps on your left side. Repeat with your right side for eight reps.
Nate Green is the author of the Hero Workout and writes about fitness and lifestyle hacks at his blog The Nate Green Experience.