Simple Dynamic Warm-up Routine

author - melissa witmer strength and conditioning

[Editor's note: Originally posted October 2017 and updated with improved video content in May 2019. New videos make the distinction between correct form and common mistakes, which should help mimimize injuries from poor form!]

In my travels, I've been surprised by how many teams do not yet have a dynamic warm up. If you're still using a lap around the field to start your practices, or if you're not satisfied with your team's readiness to play at the end of your warm up, give this version a try. And let me know how it goes! 

This post has been put together using activities from the Ultimate Athlete Project. Try it for yourself here! 

A well designed warm up has three parts:

Part 1: Focuses on increasing blood flow with moderate intensity movements. You may be used to running a lap around the field for this portion. I recommend using multi-directional movement more similar to what you'll be doing on the field.

Part 2: Uses mobility exercises to take the joints through a full range of motion and to help athletes establish good movement patterns.

Part 3: Is about exciting the nervous system and is the most important part of getting ready to play. It is also crucial for injury risk reduction.

Part 1: Physical Warm-up

Get the body moving and increase blood flow.

  1. Run at 60% speed to half field
  2. Backwards run with large steps half field.
  3. Run at 60% speed to half field
  4. Backward skip/shuffle (40 yards)
  5. Casual (low intensity) skip to half field.
  6. Low shuffle to half field. Change the way you're facing every four steps.

Part 2: Mobility and Dynamic Stretching

  1. Lunge and Reach
  2. High Knee Hugs
  3. Figure 4 Hugs
  4. Drinking Bird
  5. Walking Quad Stretch
  6. Side Side Middle Lunge
  7. Standing T-Spine Rotation (5 rotations each side)
  8. Penguin Walk (about 5-10 yards forward and backward)

Part 3: The Nervous System

All exercises should be done for about 15 yards unless otherwise noted. Allow some rest between exercises so that you can move at high intensity with quick, light feet. The purpose here is to NOT to elevate your heart rate.  Instead, we're preparing your nervous system to recruit the maximum number of fast twitch muscle fibers as quickly as possible.

  1. Cycle Kicks
  2. Lateral High Knee Skip
  3. Lateral Skips
  4. Falling Leaf
  5. Leprechaun Skips

Closing Thoughts

There is no perfect warm up for everyone or for every situation. As you gain more experience you'll likely come across other exercises you like.

The main things to keep in mind are:

  • get the hips and shoulders moving through a full range of motion.
  • Be sure you include the three parts above in your routine. Some people may prefer doing part 2 before part 1. 
  • end by firing up the nervous system

Pro tip: For teams and beginners I recommend part 1 before part 2.  Beginners and young athletes are more likely to overstretch or tweak something before the physical part of the warm up.

Older and more experienced athletes may prefer doing part 2 before part 1. Experienced athletes or those with an injury history may want to get their movement patterns (part 2) in order and work through tissue quality issues (not shown here) before doing a physical warm up (part 1). Because of their experience and body knowledge, they are less likely than new players to accidentally tweak something starting with part 2.

Both ways will work. General rule, the more experienced your athletes are, the more time you should give them for their own individualized warm up routines.