In an earlier blog, I explained the benefits of static stretching and described how to effectively program it in to yours and your clients’ workout routines. If you missed it, you can read it here. In this blog, I’d like to discuss another valuable form of stretching: dynamic stretching. At the end, I’ve included an example of a full body dynamic warm-up routine you can implement with your clients today.
Definition: Dynamic stretching is the act of moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly, with the intent of improving functional range of motion and mobility that transfer to sports and activities of daily living.
For the longest time, we were under the impression that static stretching was best performed as a warm-up prior to exercise. However, as new research and stretching modalities emerged, we discovered that static stretching is best left for after a workout, and that dynamic stretching is far more beneficial pre-exercise.
Key benefits of dynamic stretching include:
1. Site-specific activation
Dynamic stretches should focus on the muscle groups that will be used in the task ahead. For example, if you’re planning to do barbell back squats during your workout, then adding mid- and lower-body dynamic stretches, such as bodyweight squats, to your warm-up would be beneficial.
2. Increases cardiovascular function
Dynamic stretching raises your heartrate and blood pressure, increases blood flow to working muscles, and causes your core body temperature to climb. These physiological effects are all important factors in avoiding injury and performing at your best.
3. Increases range of motion
Performing dynamic stretches prior to physical activity has been shown to increase the range of motion of the activated joints, thereby improving performance and reducing the risk of injury.
4. Improves neuromuscular awareness
Dynamic stretching prior to exercise will challenge your balance and coordination. This will prepare the nervous system and help improve motor control.
At the end of the day, dynamic stretching is a great way to prime tissues and joints prior to exercise. Even those with a solid natural level of flexibility and joint motility should be implementing dynamic stretches, most notably in the hip and shoulder complexes. These ball and socket joints are the key to extremity function and allow the spine and torso to move optimally. Maintaining a full range of motion in the hips and shoulders is especially important for those who spend most of their day sitting (i.e. immobilized hips and slouched posture with shoulders internally rotated). You could demonstrate this to your clients by having them round their spine and try to fully extend their arms overhead… It’s impossible! It’s for that reason that I always incorporate some form of thoracic spine rotation and extension drills as part of my clients’ warm-ups. It prepares them for optimal movement mechanics, as well as prevents the loss of existing spinal and shoulder mobility.
Just like everything else in the fitness industry, the amount of time allotted for warm-up and dynamic stretching will be specific to the needs of the individual. Some may need a more comprehensive warm-up than others, but I believe that at least a little bit of dynamic stretching should be included into everyone’s warm-up.
Example of a dynamic warm-up: Here’s a sample dynamic warm-up that will prepare the entire body for movement and can be used as a warm-up for a variety of activities.
Perform each exercise below for 10-15 reps; repeat twice through if necessary.
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