Dynamic stretching takes average stretches to a whole new level. Many of us stretch in the morning as we’re getting out of bed. People who are serious about yoga spend months perfecting their poses.
Increased flexibility merely grazes the surface when it comes to warming up your muscles. Dynamic stretching has the potential to make you feel like an Olympic athlete, improve muscle power, and loosen stiff arms and legs. And all you have to do is get moving.
What is dynamic stretching?
What makes dynamic stretching different from regular stretching is the movement. Moving your arms in wide circles or pumping out a couple of high kicks before a workout are examples of the dynamic version.
Instead of sitting, you move with the stretch to let your muscles and joints know it’s time to work.
What is dynamic stretching good for?
Professionally trained athletes practice dynamic stretching before competing in high-stakes sports events. Think of soccer players or Olympic runners who are constantly in motion, straining their muscles, and pushing their bodies to extreme limits.
However, this practice isn’t just for the pros. Gym rats, physical therapy patients, recreational hikers, and even adults 65 and up can benefit from light to moderate dynamic stretching.
How far you go with it depends on your age and health, but in general, dynamic stretching is for everyone. Doing a low-intensity set of dynamic stretches for five minutes can have a positive impact on muscle stiffness and pain, according to research findings.
You know that initial pain you feel at the start of a workout? This is completely normal, but practicing dynamic stretching before exercise may help ease the discomfort.
Dynamic stretching benefits
The benefits of dynamic stretching have been well-studied and researched. Here’s what we know so far:
- Enhanced muscle power: In other words, being able to run longer or take on more weights. Some researchers believe that dynamic stretching is a better alternative to static stretching (touching your fingers to your toes, for example) if your goal is to work out longer. Having a wide range of motion is an important part of engaging in physical activity over an extended period, which is another reason to try dynamic stretching.
- Reduces stiffness: Going into a workout with tense muscles and joints is an unpleasant experience, but dynamic stretching may help your muscles feel more “loosey-goosey.” A 2016 study examined the effect of tight hamstrings on back pain. The researchers found that dynamic stretching improves flexibility in hamstrings, reducing back pain and making it easier to bend down.
- Cues and signals the body: If you jump into a workout without warming up, your muscles are “cold.” Regular stretching before a workout may even do more harm than good. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, send a cue to your muscles and joints (it’s time to wake up!) so your body is already primed for what’s next.
- Improves blood circulation: Preliminary research shows a positive relationship between stretching and blood flow. The study in question looked at the effects of light stretches, but the findings suggest that stretching, in general, could improve heart health and blood pressure. Since dynamic stretching involves more movement than regular stretching, it could make you feel energized (thanks to more oxygen).
Risks of dynamic stretching
Overstretching is the greatest risk involved in dynamic stretching, so be mindful of your body’s capabilities. It’s possible to injure yourself during a warmup routine, which may cause:
- Muscle strains
- Ligament tears
Dynamic stretching examples
There’s no single “right” way to do dynamic stretching, but proper form and attention to safety are important. Two of the more common exercises are:
With your feet firmly on the floor, spread them apart so they’re aligned with your shoulders. Then, lift your arms into a straight line as you perform gentle rotations. Do 15 circles, rest for 15 seconds, then go in the other direction.
Hold your left arm straight in front of you while you kick your right leg into the air, going as high as your outstretched palm. Do five kicks, then switch sides. If you can’t touch your foot to your palm, go as high as you can, being careful not to overextend your hamstrings.
Dynamic stretches for legs
The key to dynamic stretching is to move alongside the stretch. These exercises help warm up leg muscles:
Standing on one foot, bring the other leg to your chest and wrap your arms around it. Hug your knee for several seconds before dropping it to the ground, then repeat on the opposite side. Do this in one to two-minute intervals, resting for thirty seconds between each set.
Do a forward lunge, but add a twist. Once you’re in the lunge, twist your body on the same side, using your arm to reach as far behind you as possible.
Dynamic stretching for runners
Runners should pay special attention to their pre and post-workout routine since this kind of physical activity puts a lot of strain on calves, glutes, and thigh muscles. Try these exercises five to ten minutes before your run:
Put your hands on your hips, then slowly kick your leg in front of you, keeping the momentum as you extend your leg behind you. This movement mimics a swing and the way you step as you run.
Running is essentially about the legs, but the hips make the strides happen. Spread your legs to the width of your shoulders, then with your hands on your hips, make wide, slow circles. Do ten circles on one side, then rotate in the opposite direction.
Dynamic stretches for warming up
These examples may be familiar to people who regularly exercise:
Get in position to do a pushup with your arms below your shoulders and your feet parallel to your hips. Do one pushup then “walk” your hands and legs to the side, and do another pushup. Repeat up to ten times or as much as your body allows.
Bend and Reach Squat
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, then reach down to your toes. Hold onto the tops of your feet as you bend into a squat, almost sitting but hovering above the floor. Stay down for several seconds, then come back up to a standing position. Repeat ten times.
Static vs. dynamic stretching
Static stretching, as mentioned before, is how most people stretch. When you stand in one place and hold a stretch, you don’t move (you’re “static”). Dynamic stretching is the exact opposite because it involves motion with stretching.
To sum it up
Everyone’s exercise routine looks different and what you can do comes down to your fitness abilities. Dynamic stretching is an easy way to improve your range of motion and prolong your workout. What’s most important is that you listen to your body and keep on moving!