For years, traditional static stretching has been the standard that most people follow when exercising. Until recently, only athletes and professionals used dynamic stretching as a way to stretch and warm up for their workouts. However, dynamic stretching isn’t only beneficial for athletes; everyone can benefit from it. In this article, you’ll find out more about dynamic stretching and how to use it in your exercise program.
What is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that is done while moving. Unlike the more common static stretching that should be done after a workout, dynamic stretching is meant to warm up the muscles that you will be using during your workout or in specific sports.
These stretches are movements that take a joint or muscles through a repetitive motion, moving that part of the body further with each repetition. Warming up the muscles like this will help to prepare the joints and muscles for better movement and activation. (1)
Dynamic stretches should be done after warming up the body for five to ten minutes with a light jog or other light cardio activity. A proper warm up will increase blood flow, raise core body and muscle temperature, and will make the muscles more supple, enabling better stretching. (2)
Why Should You Do Dynamic Stretches?
- Properly Activates the Correct Muscles – Dynamic stretches should be done on the muscles you plan to use during your workout. For example, if you’re going to do weighted lunges in the gym, a proper dynamic warm up would be to do walking lunges. This will warm up your legs, hips, glutes, core, and stabilizing muscles before you add additional weight.
- Increases Range of Motion – Lets take the walking lunges as an example again. Walking lunges require greater range of motion through the hips, and especially through the hip flexors. Adding dynamic stretching before your workout will allow you to get deeper into each movement to get the most muscle engagement for each exercise. (3)
- Improves muscle strength and power – Just as stated above, having a greater range of motion for each exercise will allow your body to perform each exercise more efficiently. Lets look at a squat: if you warm up with prisoner squats (shown below), you will be able to get deep into a squat position without having to worry about injury from extra weight. This will “wake up” any underactive muscles that would otherwise remain inactive when performing the exercise with weights. A prisoner squat will also activate more back muscles and keep the chest more open, helping to combat a problem many folks with desk jobs suffer from. (4)
- Improves Body Awareness and Neuromuscular Awareness – Dynamic stretches challenge your balance and coordination. This will enhance the nervous system and help improve motor ability. It also forces you to focus and concentrate on the muscles you are using, as well as the workout you will perform. (5)
Dynamic Stretching Routine
This is a total body dynamic stretching routine you can try with your workouts. It will warm up most of your body and can be completed in less than five minutes. Remember to warm up with light cardio for 5-10 minutes before stretching.
Arm Swings – Standing with your back straight and abs engaged, gently start swinging your arms out to to the side and then crossing them in front of your body, alternating which arm swings on top. Gradually start making the swings larger so that you can feel a slight stretch in your chest and between your shoulder blades. Swing arms 20-30 times.
Walking Toe Touches – After making sure you have enough space around you, reach your arms out in front of you with your feet together. Kick your RIGHT leg into the air, reaching to tap it to your LEFT hand, and stepping forward. Repeat with the LEFT leg reaching to the RIGHT hand. Alternate walking forward for about 10-15 steps, then walking back, touching your toes. (You can also walk in place if you have limited space — just don’t step forward.)
Prisoner Squats – Bring feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and knees and toes slightly turned out. Place your hands behind your head and retract your shoulders together to open the chest. Squat down, sitting back as if sitting into a chair, keeping the weight in the heels and the chest open. Power through the heels to come back up to standing, squeezing the glutes at the top. Repeat 15-20 times.
Walking Lunges – Making sure you have enough space (about a 15-foot hallway is enough), start with your feet together and hands on your hips or by your sides. Step your RIGHT foot forward far enough so that when you lunge down, your RIGHT thigh is parallel to the floor. You should feel a stretch through the front of your LEFT hip, in the hip flexor. Press though your RIGHT heel and power up to bring your feet together and stand up. Repeat, stepping the LEFT foot forward. Complete 10-15, then turn around and lunge back to your starting point.
Plank Rotations – Starting in a full plank position on your hands, rotate so that your weight shifts to your RIGHT hand as you lift your LEFT arm up in the air above your shoulder. Lower back down and place the LEFT hand back on the floor and rotate to the other side, lifting the RIGHT arm up. Make sure to keep your shoulders steady and don’t lift your hips too high.
As you can see, many of the common exercises you do in the gym can be used as a dynamic stretch when only using your bodyweight. Practice this routine and see how much more range of motion you can get during your workouts, and see if you can engage more muscles, as well.