The short definition of dynamic stretching is “stretching as you are moving”. The opposite of dynamic stretching is static stretching, which is the stretching you are probably used to such as reaching down to touch your toes. Static stretching, as the name implies, requires no movement. For a video of me discussing the basics of dynamic stretching, check out this Youtube video: What is Dynamic Stretching?.
There are some HUGE benefits to dynamic stretching, which is an excellent full body warm up before any type of intense activity whether you’re about to play sports, or lift weights. Just about every athletic team in the country from little league to professional sports performs dynamic stretching before exercising.
The traditional warm up is to walk, or run on a treadmill, or some other low level cardio activity for 5-10 minutes to raise the temperature of your muscles to help prevent injury. Dynamic stretching warms your body up even faster than low level aerobic activity and offers other benefits. I sometimes combine a couple minutes of low level aerobic activity, such as jump rope, or even jumping jacks at the end of my dynamic stretching routine to get my heart rate up. Just an idea!
The major downside of the traditional warm up routine of jogging is that it doesn’t prepare you for the intensity of your workout and all the different movement patterns that you will likely use. Kinesthetic awareness is the understanding of where your body is in space and time. For example, if you try to touch the tips of your fingers together on both hands, that’s a simple example of kinesthetic awareness, which is very important before working out. Dynamic stretching can mimic the exercises that you will perform during your workout to help your body get used to the movements.
Flexibility is defined as the range of motion about a joint. Dynamic stretching can help improve the range of motion around the joints in your body to help you perform better and may prevent injury. While some research indicates stretching before, or after exercise may not prevent injury, it certainly does enhance performance and it’s worthwhile in my opinion.
Here’s an example of a dynamic stretching routine I use to get a full body warm up in only a few minutes. I have added detail below each exercise to give you more ideas depending on your fitness level.
This dynamic stretching exercise helps loosen up your psoas and hips, while engaging your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and even calves. I love this one! Just remember to complete this exercise slow and controlled to really feel the stretch and reach with your arm. You can also do this exercise while walking forward, instead of staying stationary.
This the basic version of a more advanced dynamic stretching exercise you take your right elbow and bring it as close to your heel as possible if you are lunging with your right leg. By just touching your heel with the opposite hand, you still get a nice groin stretch, but it does not open up the hips as much as trying to touch your heel with your elbow.
This is an awesome hamstring stretch, which also brings your core stability into play. Just be careful not to kick too hard, which would turn this from a dynamic stretch into “ballistic” stretch, which means the range of motion is beyond what you can handle comfortably.
You can’t see from the photo below, but as I’m bringing my knee to my chest, I’m also raising my opposite foot off the ground, like a calf raise. This helps you bring your knee those extra few inches higher to accentuate the stretch.
I complete this stretch religiously, but I use a more advanced version where I hold 10lb plates, or dumbbells, then circle each arm backwards several times, then forwards. Your shoulder has the largest range of motion of any joint in your body, so it’s imperative to properly warm it up. While I love this exercise, a close second is the T-Pushup (See: Push Up Variations).
I know there is a lot of information in this post, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. I hope it gave you a helpful overview of dynamic stretching and you are excited to try this dynamic stretching routine on your own.
If you tried this routine, what do you think?