Start every workout with this dynamic stretching warm-up to activate your muscles and take your workout to a new level.
For years, traditional static stretching was 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 for athletes only. Here’s how you can benefit from dynamic stretching, and how to do it.
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What is Dynamic Stretching?
Unlike static stretching, which involves holding still, dynamic stretching is done with movement. While static stretching is best when performed 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 bring joints 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.
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 increases blood flow, raises core body and muscle temperature, and enables the muscles to stretch better.
Here are a few things that dynamic stretching can do:
- Activate the correct muscles. You should dynamically stretch 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 walking lunges. This will warm up your legs, hips, glutes, core, and stabilizing muscles before you add additional weight.
- Increase 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. (1)
- Strengthen muscles. Dynamic stretching allows you to “wake up” underactive muscles that would otherwise remain inactive, even when performing the exercise with weights. For example, if you warm up with prisoner squats (shown below), you can comfortably get deep into a squat position while minimizing risk of an injury from extra weight.
- Enhance body awareness. When you perform dynamic stretches, you challenge your balance and coordination. This enhances the nervous system and helps 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.
Dynamic Stretching Routine
Start your workouts with this total body dynamic stretching routine that will warm you up in less than five minutes. Remember to warm up with light cardio for 5-10 minutes before stretching.
Arm Swings | 20 reps
- Stand with your back straight and abs engaged.
- Gently swing your arms out to to the side and then across the 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 your arms for a total of 20-30 times.
Walking Toe Touches | 20 reps
- Start standing with your feet together.
- Reach your arms out in front of you. Kick your RIGHT leg forward into the air, reaching to tap it to your LEFT hand. Repeat with the LEFT leg reaching to the RIGHT hand.
- Continue alternating for 20 reps.
Prisoner Squats | 15 reps
- 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 back and down, 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 for 15 reps.
Walking Lunges | 20 reps
- Start standing with your feet together, and plenty of room in front of you. Put your 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.
- Press though your RIGHT heel and power up to bring your feet together and stand up.
- Next, step the LEFT foot forward. Continue alternating for 10 steps, then turn around and lunge 10 steps back to your starting point.
Plank Rotations | 20 reps
- Start in a full plank position.
- 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 rotate to the other side, lifting the RIGHT arm up.
- Continue for 10 reps per side. 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 if you can improve your range of motion during your workouts!
Follow up this dynamic stretching warm-up with these gentle modifications for pushups, squats and lunges, or these more advanced power yoga poses!