Movement Preparation: The Key to Injury-free Workouts

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, an athlete, or someone embarking on a new exercise journey, the significance of movement preparation cannot be overstated. This essential phase, often overlooked, holds the key to optimizing your workouts, preventing injuries, and maximizing performance gains. In this article, we’ll cover the importance of movement preparation, uncovering its benefits, the techniques, and why it should be an integral art of your fitness routine. 

What is Movement Preparation?

Movement preparation, often referred to as a dynamic warm-up, is a deliberate sequence of exercises that target various muscle groups and joints. Unlike traditional static stretching, movement preparation involves active movements that engage the muscles and gradually increase the heart rate, preparing the body for the upcoming workout. 

Dynamic vs. Static

We all remember the early days of PE class, holding a hamstring stretch for 10 seconds, and switching to the other side. This process is known as static stretching and is best suited for activities that involve controlled and sustained efforts such as yoga or exercises focused on muscle isolation. 

When it comes to performance, we strongly encourage adding a dynamic warm-up to better prepare for your body for activity. Dynamic warm-ups increase your heart rate, your core temperature and sends fresh, oxygenated blood to the areas that need it most. 

When deciding which dynamic movements to warm up with, we recommend movement patterns that mimic the activity you are about to perform. We’ll cover those later is this article.

Stretching before exercise

The Benefits of Movement Preparation

Preparing your body for exercise is key to any successful workout. Here are the main benefits you can expect:
  • Injury Prevention: Dynamic movements before your workout helps increase blood flow, warm up the muscles, and enhance joint mobility, reducing the risk of strains and injuries during your workout. We recommend moving your body in ways that mimic the exercise you are about to perform, but at a reduced or minimal load. This strategy gives your muscles, joints and ligaments time to “wake-up” before they are under the stress of your workout.
  • Enhanced Performance: Preparing for exercise primes your nervous system, allowing for improved coordination, balance, and strength during exercise. Your ability to recruit muscles and respond to changes in direction or terrain becomes heightened as your body has essentially practiced this motion during your warm-up.
  • Range of Motion: Dynamic stretching and movements help improve your range of motion which can lead to better exercise form and increased functional flexibility. Consider your muscles, joints and ligaments, as a rubber band. If you stretch the band to its limit on the first attempt, it’s likely the band will snap. But, if you gradually increase the stretch length over time, it’s less likely to break under tension. 
  • Mental Focus: Engaging in a movement preparation routine helps shift your focus to your workout, mentally preparing you for the challenges ahead. When you warm up with movements that your exercise requires, it provides a “muscle-memory” effect when its time to perform the movement patterns.

Key Components of Movement Preparation

# 1. Cardiovascular Warm-up:

To activate your body’s cardiovascular system you will need to gradually increase your heart rate. Do this by starting with a light activity such as walking, jogging, or cycling. Engage specific muscles that are important for your workout. For instance, if you’re doing a leg workout, include bodyweight squats or glute bridges to activate those muscle groups. 

# 2. Dynamic Stretching:

Dynamic stretching is the process of moving joints and muscles through a full range of motion before introducing the load of your workout. This process also helps improve the neuromuscular relationship known as reciprocal inhibition. Reciprocal inhibition is when one muscle contracts, the other relaxes. By going through a dynamic stretching routine, you’re essentially waking up your muscles – and not just for your workout. These muscles will remain switched on for the rest of the day. Movement prep also tunes your sense of proprioception. It prepares your body for random, chaotic movement by fine-tuning its nerves and feedback mechanisms. Below are a few general examples that you can implement into your warm-up routine:

Dynamic Stretching Examples:

Hip Cross Over
Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground, keeping abdominals tight, let your knees fall to left, bring back to center, then fall to the right. 
Hip Cross Over 2 Hip Crossover 1
Lateral Lunge
Standing in a squat position step to the right, keeping toes forward and feet flat (knee should not bend past toes) while keeping the left leg straight. Hold, then bring left foot towards body, return to squat position and repeat. The stretch should be felt on the inside of the thigh. 
Lateral Lunge 1 Lateral Lunge 2
Hand Walk 
Bend slowly at the waist and walk hands out into a push-up position. Then, keeping legs straight, slowly walk one foot at a time towards your hands. 
Hand Walk 1 Hand Walk 2
Lunge With Twist
Standing, step backwards into a lunge with left leg, left arm reaches up and torso twists over front leg and hold. Step into the next lunge and repeat. Stretch should be felt in hip flexor of back leg and glute of front leg. 
Lunge With Twist 2

Sport Specific Dynamic Warm-Up: Tennis

Customizing for Your Workout

Your movement preparation routine should be specific or closely related to your workout. If you’re focusing on upper body exercises, make sure to include arm and shoulder movements. For lower-body workouts, concentrate on lower-body dynamic stretches and activation exercises during your warm-up. We recommend doing 5-10 repetitions of each Movement Prep exercises. 

Women stretching her right arm


Movement preparation is the foundation on which successful workouts are built. By dedicating a few extra minutes to this phase, you’re not only preventing injuries but also setting the stage for a more productive and enjoyable exercise session. Pay attention to how your body responds during movement preparation. The goal is to gently prepare your muscles and joints without overexertion. If any movement causes discomfort, modify it or skip it altogether. Remember, your body deserves the best care, and movement preparation is your secret weapon for achieving your fitness goals while prioritizing your well-being. 
If you have a condition that is preventing you from starting on your fitness goals, contact us. Our team will educate and equip you with strategies that can help you improve the quality of your life. 
In Good Health, 
– The Salinas Team


1. Crone. C Reciprocal inhibition in man. Dan Med Bull. 1993 Nov;40(5);571-81. PMID: 8299401.

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