Dynamic Stretching Improve Flexibility and Strength: What Is It?
What is dynamic stretching?
It’s the act of moving your body in a way that causes it to move at a faster speed than its own natural ability. This movement usually involves bending or straightening one or both legs while keeping the other leg still.
The goal of dynamic stretching is to improve flexibility and strength. It’s not just a quick stretch; it requires time and practice. You’ll need to do several repetitions before you see any improvement in flexibility or strength.
How Does Dynamic Stretching Work?
In order for dynamic stretching to work, there are two things that must happen:
Your muscles have to lengthen (or contract) longer than they would normally. Your joints have to bend (or straighten) farther than normal when you perform the motion.
When these two factors occur simultaneously, they cause your muscles to lengthen or shorten more quickly than their normal length. Your joints don’t have to bend far enough to cause them pain, but they must remain flexible so that you maintain proper balance during the exercise.
For example, if you were standing with your feet together and bent at the knees, then you could make a small amount of space between them by bending your knee slightly while extending your foot forward.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
Stretches your muscles and joints while warming up your body so that they can move faster and with more power.
Helps to prevent injuries during physical activity by loosening up the muscles and joints.
May improve your performance by improving your range of motion, agility, and balance.
Maintains and/or improves flexibility.
Here are some examples of dynamic stretching exercises you can do:
Arm Swings. Stand with your arms straight down to your sides and your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly raise your arms until they’re at shoulder height and then backwards until your hands are just behind your hips. Swing your arms forward and backwards.
Continue doing this for 10 repetitions. Bending Over. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly bend over at the waist as far as you can. Your back should be straight and you shouldn’t arch it. Hold this position for a few seconds and then go back to the starting position. Continue this for five repetitions. Leg Swings. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and swing your right leg from side-to-side in a circle. Start small and work your way up to larger circles. Continue this for ten repetitions and then switch legs. Jogging in Place. Stand with your feet together and jog in place as fast as you can. Continue this for one minute and then stop. After a brief rest, do it again for one more minute.
Dynamic Stretching Risks
There are some risks to performing dynamic stretches without warming up first. They include:
Pulling muscles or joints. If your body isn’t ready for the exercise, you’re at risk of pulling muscles and ligaments. This can cause pain and set back your training goals.
Injury. Performing dynamic stretching without warming up first can cause injuries such as sprained ankles, knees, and hips. It also increases your risk of pulled muscles and ligaments.
Improper form. If you don’t learn the proper form for these exercises, you can hurt yourself. For example, when doing the leg swings, many people swing their legs too high. This can cause your hip to twist in a way that you shouldn’t, potentially resulting in a pulled muscle or ligament.
These are just some of the risks of dynamic stretching without warming up first. To reduce your risk and perform these exercises safely and effectively, consider asking an exercise professional to show you the proper form and how to warm up before your workout.
In most cases, it’s recommended that you perform dynamic stretching before your workout because it can improve your overall performance and range of motion during the workout. If you don’t have a lot of time for a warm up, then you can eliminate one of the exercises and just do the leg swings because they take the least amount of time.
When performing these exercises, don’t push yourself too hard. Always start out slowly and then gradually increase the speed and range of motion as your body becomes more warmed up. However, you also don’t want to spend too much time on static stretching either because it can decrease your muscle strength and endurance.
Dynamic stretching, as with any type of exercise, should be done at your own pace. If you haven’t been active in a while then it might be best to talk to a physical therapist or certified fitness instructor about what types of exercises are right for you.
Remember, proper form is extremely important when performing these exercises. Incorrect form could cause an injury that sets back your training goals. If you’re unsure about how to perform a particular movement, then seek out the help of an exercise professional.
When you’re more experienced with exercising, then you can start to add more dynamic stretching exercises into your routine. As long as you’re properly warmed up, there’s no reason to stick with just these five exercises. You can create your own routine so long as you warm up first.
Always listen to your body and don’t push it too hard. There’s no reason to overwork yourself in an effort to reach your fitness goals.
Warming Up and Stretching: A Sample Warm Up
Below is a sample warm up routine that you can use before your exercise session. Follow the instructions for each exercise and repeat the entire routine at least twice before starting your regular workout.
The routine includes five main exercises which are described in the list below:
Arm Swings: Keep your arms loose by taking large arm swings forward and then backward. Don’t forget to also swing your arms from side to side. This will help prepare your shoulders, arms and hands for the workout.
Quick Feet: Move your feet as quickly as you can. Try to get a little bounce in your step. If you’re doing this right, it might even look like you’re dancing a little bit. This will help prepare your legs for the exercises ahead.
Torso Twists: With your knees slightly bent, twist your upper body to the right as far as you can, and then twist as far as you can to the left. This will help warm up your core and obliques.
Leaning Toes: With your legs in a crouched position, pull your toes back towards you as far as you can. Keep pulling until you feel a little bit of a stretch in your calves and ankles.
Calf Raises: Raise up on your toes and then slowly lower yourself back down. If this is too easy, try raising up on your toes and then lowering yourself just past the starting position. Then raise back up and lower yourself back down. Try to do this for at least a full minute.
Workout Routine Tips
The following are some general tips to remember for when you’re beginning your exercise routine:
Increase the Intensity Over Time: As you get more experienced with exercising, you’ll naturally be able to increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. This is beneficial because it helps keep your body from becoming used to a certain routine, therefore allowing you to continue seeing results.
Wear the Proper Attire: Although this seems like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t follow this rule. Whether you’re working out at home or at a gym, you’ll need to make sure that you’re wearing comfortable, breathable clothing. Avoid wearing jeans, and even sweatpants can cause your legs to get too hot which could lead to a potential injury. Stick with loose-fitting, light colored shorts.
Bring Water and a Towel: Didn’t I just say to wear light clothing?
Yes, but you still want to make sure that you have a towel and water bottle with you. It might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised by how easy it is to forget these things. By bringing these items with you, you’ll avoid having to interrupt your routine to go purchase them which could potentially throw off your whole day.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings: Although the likelihood is very low, there is always a chance that you could be targeted for crime when you’re out running, especially if you’re by yourself and in some sort of secluded area. So while it’s important to keep yourself focused on your workout, you still want to make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings.
Listen to Music: This is more of a personal preference, but there is evidence that listening to music while you work out can actually help you stay motivated as well as push yourself a little bit further. This is certainly something you can try out and see if it’s right for you.
Get an Accountability Partner: This is probably the most important tip for beginners. Having someone to hold you accountable for your routines will help make sure that you don’t skip workouts.
Sources & references used in this article:
Effects of dynamic stretches on isokinetic hamstring and quadriceps femoris muscle strength in elite female soccer players by S Colak – South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical …, 2012 – journals.co.za
The acute effects of combined static and dynamic stretch protocols on fifty-meter sprint performance in track-and-field athletes by IM Fletcher, R Anness – … of strength and conditioning research, 2007 – search.proquest.com
Acute effect of a ballistic and a static stretching exercise bout on flexibility and maximal strength by RFP Bacurau, GA Monteiro… – … Journal of Strength …, 2009 – cdn.journals.lww.com