By: Casey Davis ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer
How often do you see someone walk into the gym and go straight to the squat rack, bench press, deadlift platform, or other machines, load weight on and start repping away with no warm-up at all? It’s not an uncommon occurrence in most gyms and not a smart approach to training,
Dynamic is defined as constant change, activity, or progress. When performing dynamic warm-ups we are constantly moving focusing on movement at the joint, warming up and activating a muscle so it fires properly, and improving joint stability. This is not to be confused with static stretching (holding stretches for extended periods of time) which in most cases should be performed post workout. The importance of the dynamic warm up is to insure safety (less risk of injury) and to prime and potentiate your body for the workout.
When performing a dynamic warm up I start from the ground and work my way up. This is going to look like feet/ankles > knees > hip complex > core > lats/shoulders. I typically perform 1-2 rounds with as many reps as I feel needed to properly warm up desired area (keep in mind the goal is not to overexert and fatigue yourself in the warm up).
Ankles: The first thing I do is take a lacrosse ball and do some soft tissue work on the bottom of my foot (30 sec to a min each side) trying to break up and release tissue especially since I am on my feet training clients all day. The second exercise I do is unilateral (single leg) movements on a bosu ball. I will make clockwise and counterclockwise rotations with my ankle, side to side movements (inversion and eversion), and front to back movements (plantar flexion and dorsiflexion). I will perform 10-12 reps of each. This is a great way to get the ankle joint and muscles in the foot, calf, quads, and glute (single leg requires more hip stability) warmed up. The third movement I do is an ankle mobilization with a resistance band. I will anchor a thicker band onto the bottom of a rack, get in a split squat position, slightly bend my knee, and shift my weight forward while the band pulls back on the ankle joint. This exercise works on improving my dorsiflexion ankle mobility.
Knees: For my knees typically all I do is a resistance band knee extension. I anchor a thicker band at about knee height on a rack, step one leg into the band, walk back until I get a good amount of resistance, slightly bend my knee and get up on my toes (just the side that is in the resistance band), and press my heel down extending my knee. I’ll do 15-20 reps for 2 to 3 rounds (or until knees and quads feel warm).
Hip Complex: I start with a hip c.a.r. (controlled articular rotation). Stand against a rack or some kind of vertical post, lock one hip against the post, bring the opposite leg up into hip flexion, out into abduction, and back into extension (the goal is to perform all these movements without letting the hip that is pinned to the post leave the post. Typically I will perform 6-8 full rotations (or more if hips feel tight/stuck on that specific day). The goal of these is to improve active ROM (range of motion) through the hips which is especially important during squat patterns. The next exercise I do is a single leg elevated glute bridge with 5 second isometric hold at the top. Lie on your back, elevate one foot onto either a box or bench, with knees slightly bent extend your hips up towards the ceiling, hold position for a 5 count, lower yourself in a controlled manner, and repeat for 6-10 reps. If single leg is too difficult you can do it bilaterally (both legs). The goal of this movement is to activate the glutes and get them properly firing to avoid movement dysfunctions (hip shift during squats, etc.).
Core: The only movement I do for my core is lying down in a prone position (on my back) and performing stomach vacuums. A vacuum is a great exercise to activate your TVA (transversus abdominis). This is important in squatting because our core is responsible for stability through our trunk and proper bracing. To perform a vacuum you want to get in your prone position, take a deep breath inhaling as much air as you can, slowly exhale all the air out of your stomach and lungs, draw your belly button up and in towards your spine revealing your rib cage, maintain position for as long as you can tolerate, relax, and repeat when ready.
Lats/Shoulders: This is the only area where I perform static stretching prior to lifting on my squat days. The reason why one would stretch this area before squatting is if they are tight through the lats, pecs, and shoulders it can hinder their squat form. Typically if these areas have restricted mobility your elbows are going to elevate or “chicken wing” in your stance. This makes maintaining good torso position a lot more challenging. Release these muscles prior to training so that you can keep your elbows down and stacked under your wrist. This applies especially to people that front squat with a front rack. I will typically hold stretches for 30-40 seconds. Since I’m stretching muscles that aren’t directly involved in the movement, my performance will not be affected.
This warm-up typically takes 10-15 min. If you are short on time you can always pair warm-up movements together. I strongly suggest you follow a dynamic warm-up protocol to ensure safety, longevity, and improved performance in your squats.