Dynamic Warm-Up

Much has been made in the sports world of the benefit of a dynamic warm-up, since studies have shown that static stretching–longer holds–before a workout doesn’t improve performance and might actually hinder the muscles’ ability to produce force.

Still, many athletes are at a loss as to where to begin. What constitutes a dynamic warm-up? We yogis, however, know already: Any flow, moving in and out of a pose with the breath, can be used to get the body warm and ready for work. This could be as simple as a few rounds of Cat-Cow or as complex as a sequence of Sun Salutations with standing poses slotted in. The goal is to move through an increasingly bigger range of motion without lingering in any stretch, to activate and lubricate the muscles, prepping them for the workout.

While Sun Salutations might be feasible if you are in the gym or your workout starts at home, it can be tough to lay your hands down on an uneven surface or to take Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) at the trailhead or just off the chair lift. In the video below, I demonstrate a sequence you can do just about anywhere, even a parking lot. It will help activate your core musculature and your gluteal muscles–strong glutes are an important part of injury prevention. It will also help you sync your breath with your motion, putting you in the right frame of mind for mindful exercise.

Start by standing tall in Tadasana. Taking the weight into your right foot, inhale and raise your arms and your left leg, bent at the knee. As you exhale, step your left foot back into Arrow Lunge, holding your torso on a diagonal line over your thigh. Inhale and drive back through to the one-legged balance, pulling the left knee back up, then exhale back to Tadasana. Repeat on the other side.

Adding on, you can move from the Arrow Lunge to Anjeyanasana (Crescent Lunge), then back into a side stretch, then into Warrior III. The possibilities are endless. If you are preparing for a sport that requires twisting, such as tennis, move from Anjeyanasana into a twisting lunge (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana). If you’re going to be skiing, sit into Utkatasana (Chair Pose) at the start of the flow. As you play, remember to move in and out with the breath, and to work well within your means. You are not looking for a stretch; save that for after the workout. You are, however, looking for a pleasant awareness of your hip muscles working. After five to 10 rounds, you should be primed for action.

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Sage Rountree is a yoga teacher, endurance sports coach and athlete, and author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga. She teaches workshops on yoga for athletes nationwide and online at Yoga Vibes.