Creating Active Dynamic Warm-Ups for any Workout

Stop messing around, and learn the 6 layers of an active dynamic warm-up to actually prep your team for activity.

How many times have you gone to a class and the instructor has you running or doing 50 jumping jacks, 50 squats, and 50 push-ups right when you walk in?  While this surely will get you warm, it also shocks the body and doesn’t properly prepare the muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the demands of activity.  Most people spend their days sitting, so it is in no way ready to go at a dimes notice!  Just like my poor little 1998 Toyota Camry doesn’t want to gun it at a stop light or jet up a hill, your body doesn’t want to just “go”.  Nope, you need to actually do a warm-up before you dive into the workout.

So maybe you aren’t a car person, so lets chat on the warm-up with a little bit of a wink and a smile.  Yup, we’re heading to the bedroom to think about the importance of a warm-up.

Outside of our adolescent selves who were ready at a moments notice, who really likes to jump right into the action?  I’m not saying spend an hour getting ready (because then you may just get bored), but a good 10-20 minutes could do the trick.  Then by the time you get there your body is ready and can fully engage and go for it!

Okay, so enough bedroom talk for one day (although that was more fun than the original movie trailers opening analogy I had for you!!)  Let’s get back to the real point of this article, active dynamic-warm-ups.


Great question!

It is exactly what it sounds like, it is taking the time to dynamically (with movement) prepare the body for the workout ahead.  Some coaches call it a ‘movement prep’ or gradual progression of movement, but essentially it is the idea that you are going to be doing intense movements, and you want to prepare the muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, and the stretch-reflex cycle to be ready when called upon.

I had the pleasure of spending 1-year working for IMG Academy, a sports performance academy for youth through elite level athletes.  During this time, I discovered that the warm-up is often the hardest part of any workout!  The body is prepping for what it is about to do, and it needs to be able to move with coordination, accuracy, and with the least chance of injury.  This takes time, focus, and a gradual progression that lasts between 10-30 minutes.

Yea, you heard me correctly, 10-30 minutes spent WARMING-UP and PREPARING the body for the workout.  Not 2-4 minutes like some instructors or programs are out there promoting.  Instead of warming-up the body, these “accelerated warm-ups” are actually just shocking the body and putting people at risk for injury or put them in a place where they may not be able to get the most out of their workout.

I personally don’t like gasping for air within the first 2-minutes of activity (now 22-minutes into class, that is a different story, I will hit hard then!), which is exactly what happens when you jump right into a working portion of class (i.e. running, jumping, etc.).  While these pre-choreographed programs or coaches are out there creating crazy-ass “accelerated warm-ups” into programs, this doesn’t mean it is correct or should be done.  I am young, and it is a struggle for my body to get ready for a hard pumping workout by jumping right into it.  I can’t imagine what it would feel like for someone who has 10, 20, 30, or 40-years on me….but you know what, I HAVE to think about them though because they are in my classes!!!!!!

Thus, I have ditched the 2-4 minute “accelerated warm-up” and instead focus on one with purpose and direction for the workout ahead.

Oh, and if it is good enough for pro athletes, then trust me, it is good enough for your participants!


Reconsider the start of your classes, and instead of just telling people to run, do some jumping jacks, and squat, kick off your classes with an Active Dynamic Warm-up. 

I’ll take the opportunity to bore you with all the science behind a proper warm-up and the major benefits of an active dynamic warm-up in another article, but for now, here is the down and dirty of what needs to be included before you get your people up and running!

  • There are six (6) layers to an ADW
  • Warm body up from the inside out
  • Start simple and build with intensity
  • Include movement in all planes of motion (frontal, sagittal, transverse)
  • Mobilize and stabilize joints
  • Increase heart rate
  1. Core activation
    This does NOT mean lay on the floor and do crunches, no think of movements that activate the abs, Obliques, lower back and glutes.
  2. Squats & Lunges 
    Multiplanar movement (i.e. movement in different planes of motion) can be across the floor or in place, but includes movement forward/back (sagittal plane), side/side (frontal plane), and with a rotation (transverse plane).
  3. Transitions
    Start moving across the floor with variations of skips/shuffles/cariocas – all focusing on controlled movement that engages the tendons and ligaments in the ankles, knees, and hips in order to run, jump, and squat later in class.
  4. Active stretches
    Nope, you don’t get to sit on the floor and stretch your hamstring, instead you are doing dynamic movements that includes a lengthening of the muscle OR are using myofascial release techniques to release and trigger muscles & joints in order to really move them with proper range of motion.
  5. Build up runs
    These are exactly what they sound like, runs that get faster with time.  Start your team at 50% and within 6-8 runs have them at 100% effort.  The gradual build-up gives the body time to respond to the fact it is now running!
  6. Closed chain isolated exercises
    Finish an active dynamic warm-up with isolated movements and exercises, such as leg-swings, to finally focus specifically on a different joints and ranges of motion.

Over the past 4-years I have really mastered the ADW and use it within all of my classes.  It may look and feel a little different in a bootcamp class versus an isolated strength class, but the principles are always there.  The guidelines of building the movements and prepping the body from the inside out.

So without further ado, here is one of my favorite active dynamic warm-ups.  Enjoy!

Core activation (10x total each move = 5x/side)

  • Supine Double Leg Bridges
  • Supine Single Leg Bridges
  • Dead bugs (alternating arm/leg drop with legs lifted at 90-degrees)
  • Bird Dog (all 4’s, alternating arm/leg – only lifting as high as shoulder/butt)
  • Plank Shoulder Taps
  • Plank Slow Mountain Climbers
  • Plank Instep Lunge (alternating, stepping foot beside hand)
  • Downward Dog Pushups

Squats & Lunges (40 yds each)
*Depending on space, class size, & class format I will do these either in place or as across the room drills

  • Rotational Squats
  • Alternating Lunges
  • Lateral Lunges
  • Alternating Lunge w/ Side Reach

*Depending on space, class size, & class format I will do these either in place or as across the room drills

  • Butt Kicks
  • High Knees
  • Lateral Shuffle
  • Carioca

Active stretches
*Each of these are done as across the floor movements that alternate each side

  • Lunge w/ instep reach and rotation
  • Front Kicks opposite arm hamstring reach
  • Inchworm
  • Knee Hug
  • Leg Cradle

Build up runs
*I love these and have a bit of fun when I do them by mixing up how I start

  • Starting in plank position, once GO is said, participants have 2 steps to get to standing and running across the floor
  • 6-8 runs building from 50-100%

Closed chain isolated exercises
*These vary based on my class focus and exercise selection, but these are my favorites for classes that include a lot of jumps, lunges, squats, etc.

  • Lateral Tube Walks
  • Monster Walks
  • Drop Lunge


Are you looking at this going “holy shit, that is a TON more than I do in my warm-up, when will we have time to do an actual workout?!”

This warm-up takes about 20-minutes.  However, if you notice it includes exercises that are movement prep, but also actually work and strengthen the body during it.  It just has a design and logical progression so you don’t jump right into bed without first doing some over the shirt action!

Oh, and by the way, I have done this warm-up at quite a few conferences and CEC courses over the past few years, and more often than not other fit pros let me know that it is ‘not easy’, that they don’t feel like they are doing a warm-up, and they would have no idea they were still in a warm-up phase if I didn’t tell them.


Creating Active Dynamic Warm-Ups

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