The dynamic warm-up is so crucial to prepare you for the demands of running. But, do you have a specific system in place that provides reliable results time after time? Most likely not.
Oftentimes what becomes the problem is that the dynamic warm-up is thought of as a stretching and flexibility session OR a literal increase in muscle temperature. Are you someone who incorporates a series of static stretches before running? Or, do you walk and slow jog for a short period of time before picking up to your pace for that day? If so, this article will provide you with a much more thorough and worthwhile system to implement in order to see big results with your running.
Of course, the strategies I listed above do need to be taken into consideration as part of your warm-up. But, you also need to to address your specific limitations, the demands of the sport, and thus prepare the body accordingly.
When designing a dynamic warm-up for my clients, I like to include (4) different areas that I feel provide the best results in the most reliable way possible. These include:
- Neuromuscular Control
- Muscle Temperature & Joint Lubrication
- Shock Absorption
Let me break down each section individually so you fully understand it’s importance and consider how it will enhance your dynamic warm-up…
Neuromuscular control is a term to describe the connection between the nervous system and muscles. Essentially, do you have control of important body areas that will allow you to fire the proper muscles needed to run with authority. Key areas that are specific to running are the foot, calf, gluteals, hip flexors, core, and scapular muscles. Knowing where your specific limitations are will help narrow down this section to only what is the most important. So, if you have good neuromuscular control of the intrinsic foot and hip flexors, address the calf, gluteals, and scapular muscles to fine tune your weaknesses and prepare for the upcoming run.
Some examples of relevant neuromuscular drills for running include the following: yoga toes, calf raises, sidelying hip abduction isometric hold, supine 90/90 w/ resisted marching, dead bug, bent over T.
Muscle Temperature & Joint Lubrication
Muscle temperature and joint lubrication is what runners most commonly think about and complete when it comes to the warm-up. Essentially, can we increase heart rate and tissue temperature while also moving the joints to prevent stiffness as it relates to running.
I’m not saying static stretching is wrong when it comes to programming for this section, but it certainly is not the most effective. What we need to realize about running is that it is a mid-range activity. Therefore, cranking on muscles to increase range of motion is probably not super important before you run. Instead, focus more on actively moving through your range of motion to prepare the body and joints for movement.
Locomotion is an often overlooked aspect of all warm-ups, especially for runners. I love locomotion as the transition point between warming up the body, improving timing and coordination, and beginning to increase the demands in terms of loading and absorbing ground reaction forces. Since running is a plyometric-like activity, you must increase the velocity of your movements before hitting the road. We can’t just expect some low level neuromuscular drills and leg swings to successfully prepare you for the high impact demand of running.
Locomotion drills in particular further enhance neuromuscular control, tissue temperature, joint lubrication, timing, and coordination in a controlled fashion. Essentially, they are the skills that create an efficient running cycle and finally get you moving while exposing yourself to higher impact.
Shock Absorption is easily the one area that does not get programmed in most dynamic warm-ups. With ground reaction forces throughout lower extremity being so high during running, it’s important to expose the body to these demands in a controlled environment before pounding the pavement. Even though the emphasis is on landing in a soft and absorbent manner, this section further addresses propulsion just as much as shock absorption.
Research shows that the body has to withstand forces up to and sometimes exceeding 2-4x it’s bodyweight while running. Just as previously stated in the locomotion section, if you go from leg swings or walking lunges to that much impact, the body will not be adequately prepared for that degree of loading. That’s why adding some double leg and single leg jumps will be the icing on the cake to fully prepare the body for the demands of running.
As you read through each of those sections, you might be thinking to yourself, “Where do I begin?” I wish I had the best answer for you as this systematic and progressive dynamic warm-up should be individualized to your needs. That’s why I highly recommend reaching out to a trained healthcare provider who specializes in working with runners. Click here to schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation.
In the meantime, below is a video tutorial on this dynamic warm-up system so you can learn more about each specific aspect with general suggestions on related drills. Remember, general recommendations often get general results. So work on fine tuning this system to work for you and please reach out with any questions or comments.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART