The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Appropriate Warm-Up. Leave the “Old School” Thoughts Behind.

Posted in

Monday, Aug 07, 2017

There are two primary methods of stretching. Dynamic stretching involves motion while static stretching does not. Exercise sessions are best preceded by dynamic stretching, which is also known as dynamic warm-up, while static stretching should be incorporated following a cool-down. The purpose of dynamic stretching is to warm-up the body orthopedically (enhance the range of motion), cardiovascularly (gradually increase heart rate), and thermally (increase in muscle and core body temperature). It is important to prepare the body for exercise in all three planes of movement, beginning in the sagittal plane. This will assist in activating stabilizer muscles important for injury prevention.

 It is important to note that the same movements utilized in a dynamic warm-up can be used during the cool-down. Performing an active cool-down facilitates the return of blood back to the heart and prevents pooling of blood in the lower extremities, thus reducing the risk of post-exercise hypotension and cardiac dysrhythmias. This redistribution of blood is vital to the recovery process and safety of the individual. 

Guidelines for Dynamic Stretching:

  • The movement should not be exhaustive or painful.
  • Perfrm 10-20 repetitions.
  • Avid ballistic stretching which can lead to injury.
  • Use repeated, fluid, gentle body movements that gradually increase reach and/or speed of movement.
  • Mvements can be specific or sports-related such as swinging a bat, or a low level activity such as walking.
  • Avid high intensity/impact activities during the dynamic warm-up (i.e., running, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc.)

A number of different exercises can be utilized for the dynamic warm-up. Some examples are shown in this Fit Tip. Short descriptions of the exercises demonstrated in the video can be seen below.

Knee to Chest: Begin the exercise by marching in place. Lightly pull under the knee lifting it toward the chest. Then add a heel raise. Ensure that the students are maintaining an upright posture throughout the movement.

Straight Leg Kicks: While standing upright and keeping the legs straight, raise one leg as high as possible and touch the opposite hand. Avoid ballistic movements and only raise the leg to the point of mild tension.

Lateral Traveling Quarter Squats: In one direction, step and perform a quarter squat then repeat. Perform 10 repetitions to one side then 10 in the opposite direction.

Lateral Drop Lunge (Skater): Step to the left side. Cross the right leg behind the left food then lunge. Ensure that the knee of the forward leg is behind the toes. Then step to the right side and repeat in opposite direction.

Inch Worms: Start in a push-up position. Keep the hands in place. While taking small steps, walk the legs in towards the hands with the knees extended. Once you reach a point of mild tension, walk the hands out until you are back in the push-up position. Keep a straight spine throughout the movement.

Open Books: Begin by lying on your side with the knees and hips bent to a 90 degree angle with arms stacked and out in front of the chest. Keeping both the bottom knee and arm on the ground, slowly rotate the upper body to open up chest and place the top arm on the floor behind you. Return to starting position and repeat.

These are just a few of many warm-up exercise options. Teaching your students about the importance of a dynamic warm-up will help to ensure a safe exercise session. Be sure to emphasize proper form for all of the movements that you include.