Dynamic Warm-Ups to Prime Your Muscles for Exercise

Everyone knows you are “supposed” to warm up before a workout, but why?  Every one of our patients engages in some sort of warm up exercise to begin the session to certify we get the most out of every visit.

A warm up is crucial for two major reasons. The first reason is that research shows that it significantly reduces the risk of injury, specifically muscle strains and tears.  In addition to decreased risk of injury, a warm up primes your muscles for activity so that you will achieve increased muscle fiber activation with exercise.  What this means is you will have increased muscle fiber breakdown, leading to an increase in efficiency with strengthening exercises. 

What is equally as important as the warm up, is performing it correctly. Contrary to what most people perform, a Dynamic, or actively moving, warm up is much better than a static, or stationary, stretch.  A dynamic warm up gets the muscles contracting and increases blood flow the targeted muscles, literally warming them up. It will also ensure that you are activating the proper muscles with activity.  Listed below are four great warm up exercises to improve your muscle recruitment and ensure you optimize your workout!

Glute bridge
Glute Bridge Exercise

The biggest muscles in the entire body are the glute maxes.  Your body is designed to have these firing to improve both leg and core function.  To prep the glutes for exercise, bridges is a great exercise.  Starting position: Laying on your back with your hips and knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Action: Pushing through your heels and squeezing your buttock muscles together, lift your hips and low back off the ground but keep your shoulder blades against the ground, then lower back down.  Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.


Whether you are looking to go for a run or lift weights, the lateral side of your hips play a critical role in stabilizing both the legs and the core. These are muscles that most people neglect and can lay dormant without proper activation. Starting position: Standing with feet shoulder width apart with trunk upright.  Action: Standing on one leg, kick your other leg directly out to the side, thinking about squeezing the muscle on the outside of your hip.  Be sure to keep your knee straight and not lean your trunk when kicking.  Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Lateral leg kick
Lateral Leg Kick
fitness spinning
Thoracic Rotation

This exercise mobilizes both the joints of your spine, as well as your ab and shoulder muscles. This is a great warm up for both upper and lower body exercising. Starting position: Standing with your feet flat on the floor, toes pointed forward, arms folded across your chest.  Action: Keeping your hips squared facing directly forward, twist your shoulders to the left and to the right 10 times each way. Try to squeeze the shoulder blade back as you turn to that side.


Whether it is for work or relaxing at the end of the day, we all spend several hours a day sitting down.  Sitting is great for off weighting our legs and giving those joints a break, but it can lead to some tight hamstrings.  Since so many people have restrictions in their hamstrings, it is the most common strained muscle with weightlifting, running, and sport performance.  This is a great warm up exercise to both stretch your hamstrings and increase blood flow to them to warm them up and prepare for activity.  Starting position: For this one you will need about 50 feet of space to walk back and forth.  Action: Walking down, you will keep your knee straight and kick your legs forward alternating with each step.  Reach forward with your hands like you are doing a toe touch.  Coming back, you will keep your thighs parallel with each other and alternate bending your knee trying to touch your heel to your buttocks.  Repeat this 3 times.

Leg kick
Front Leg Kick

Tanner Simmons, PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist working at the OrthoSouth PT clinic in Germantown. Call 901.522.6440 to book an appointment with Tanner or another OrthoSouth Physical Therapist at the Germantown clinic.