For many years, static stretching was considered a must-do before exercise, and was the most popular type of warmup for athletes. However, today most fitness experts agree that dynamic stretching is a better way to warm up your body and prepare your muscles, tendons and ligaments before a workout.
According to Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare, “Static stretching extends the targeted muscle group to its maximal point, and each position is held for 30 seconds or more. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is active stretching. Your body goes through movements and multiple repetitions to ease your way to a greater range of motion to stretch and warm up simultaneously before exercise.”
Benefits of dynamic stretching
“Dynamic stretching has been shown to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury when done before a workout or a sporting event that requires a lot of power, speed or strength,” explains Hays.
“The main benefit of dynamic stretching is that because it mimics movement patterns involved in the sport or a fitness routine about to be performed, it warms up and prepares your body for the intensity, movements and ranges necessary for the main activity,” she says.
As a result, dynamic stretching also leads to:
- Reduced risk of injury
- Increased power and endurance
- Improved coordination and balance
- Improved mental preparedness
“Common examples of dynamic stretches are arm circles, leg raises with momentum, controlled leg swings — front and lateral — walking lunges, lunge with a twist, high knee marching and alternating toe touches,” says Hays.
Tips for doing dynamic stretching
- Do five to 10 minutes of light cardio (stationary bike or a treadmill) before dynamic stretches. Any movement that challenges your range of motion should be performed while your body temperature is higher and blood flow to muscles is increased. You should never stretch a cold muscle.
- Choose three to 10 dynamic movements for about 10 to 12 repetitions, and one set each.
- Your movement should be in a controlled, smooth and deliberate fashion. Make sure you don’t push muscles past their normal range of motion, and avoid any bouncing or jerking.
“The training axiom, ‘motion is lotion for the joints,’ effectively captures the idea behind dynamic stretching,” says Hays. “Dynamic stretching activates and prepares the muscles you will use during your workout and may improve your results and performance. On the other hand, a warmup without dynamic stretching does not fully prepare the muscles for your workout and can lead to injury or potentially inhibit your performance.”