What is Dynamic Stretching?
While we all know about the benefits of stretching, we might not be familiar with the full range of stretching and warm-up options. Many think of stretching and picture static stretching, where you fully extend a muscle and hold it for a set time frame.
While this has many benefits if done after a workout, it’s not ideal for the pre-workout warm-up. (If you’re not familiar with these benefits, check out our blog on post-workout stretches here!).
Research is inconclusive, though current thoughts on the subject assess that static stretching does not prevent injury during a workout, nor does it do much to boost your workout. Some schools of thought also estimate that it might decrease performance.
And what about dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching is more functionally oriented compared to its static sibling. This means that it aims to target a muscle’s and limb’s full range of motion (RoM). It involves full-body motions and activating the joints, without holding a position for a set amount of time.
Let’s have a look at how this can positively impact your workout.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
The main purpose of dynamic stretching is to prepare your muscles to exercise, to prevent injuries and boost your performance during the workout.
The nature of dynamic stretching can often be to mimic the movements of the activity you’re going to engage in, for example, warming up the arms for a swim by circling them. In this way, dynamic stretches warm up the muscles to get the body moving before the exercise begins.
Studies have shown that dynamic stretching benefits athletes whose exercise involves a lot of running and jumping, as well as aiding weight lifters with leg extension power, and preventing injury during cardiovascular workouts.
Dynamic stretching is also frequently recommended before high-intensity workouts, as it prepares the body better for what is coming, especially looking at the impact of these workouts on the joints. Static stretching, on the other hand, loosens the muscles but might not be as beneficial in getting them ready for exercise as it in cooling them down.
Finally, this form of stretching is also excellent for your cardiovascular system. This is because it prepares it for the workout ahead by getting your blood pumping (and more precisely, by increasing the number of heartbeats per minute in a short frame of time). This acts to increase your circulation, bringing more oxygen into your bloodstream and leaving you feeling energized for longer. Learn more about keeping your heart healthy here!
How to do Dynamic Stretches
Here are six easy dynamic stretches you can incorporate into your warm-ups.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold arms out to the side at shoulder height.
Circle around your arms slowly, starting with small circles, working up to larger circles. Perform 20 circles. This can also be done with larger circles – adapt it to your chosen form of exercise as needed!
Reverse the direction of the circles and perform 20 more.
Start to swing one leg back and forth while balancing on the other. You can hold onto a wall if needed.
Swing forward and backwards 5–10 times.
Bring that leg down and repeat with the other leg, swinging 5–10 times.
You can then face the wall and swing your legs from side-to-side if desired.
This is a great one for runners!
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bring your arms out to the side at shoulder height.
Keep your torso still and slowly start to rotate your body back and forth from right to left.
Repeat 5–10 times.
Stand forward with your arms extended at shoulder-height out in front of you, palms facing down.
Walk forward as you swing both arms to the right, with your left arm reaching in front of your chest and your right arm reaching out to the side. As you swing your arms, remember to keep your torso facing straight and only turn your shoulder joints.
Reverse direction of the swing to the opposite side as you keep walking.
Repeat 5 times on each side.
Lunge with a Twist
Lunge forward with your right leg, keeping your knee directly over your ankle and not extending it farther than your ankle.
Reach overhead with your left arm and bend your torso toward the right side.
Bring your right leg back to return to an upright standing position. Lunge forward with your left leg.
Repeat five times on each leg.
Knee to Chest
Bring your knee to your chest before pushing your leg back to the ground.
Alternate legs, performing these stretches while you walk or from a stationary position.
Dynamic Stretching Mistakes to Avoid
According to some experts, the key thing to avoid when engaging in dynamic stretching is bouncing. This can put excess pressure on your joints, especially as they aren’t properly warmed up yet since you’re at the beginning of your workout.
Bouncing motions often occur with ballistic stretching, and this directly counteracts the controlled motions of the dynamic stretches.
Ready to Go?
As the very nature of dynamic stretches means they often imitate the exercise you will be doing, this means they are easily adapted to your workout and fitness goals.
Beckwith Health Club’s excellent PTs are always ready to help you meet these goals. Why not schedule an appointment with one of them and work on adapting your stretches to your workout? This way, you’ll be getting the most out of your exercise! You can book a session with our PTs, and learn more about them, here.