What is dynamic stretching and why is it important before I workout?

With the nice weather (hopefully) coming to Chicago soon, it is important for individuals who want to return to sport related activities to establish a proper warm-up routine.

Dynamic stretching is defined as a motion that is performed with movement for a functional and sport-specific basis to improve mobility prior to an athletic event. This is different from static stretching, which is when someone holds a particular motion for a longer duration. Dynamic stretching is beneficial for an athlete as this can improve performance and reduce future incidences of injury.

Some of the advantages of dynamic stretching include:

  • Increasing body temperature, blood flow, and oxygenation to vital organs and muscles
  • Executing specific movement patterns prior to the activity for neuromotor control
  • Improving functional mobility

What kind of dynamic stretches can I do before I workout?

Start off by doing a 3 to 5 minute light jog and then perform the following stretches in a walking fashion. Each repetition should be held for approximately 3 seconds. Perform going down approximately 25 feet and then returning to the starting position 2 to 3 times:

  • Ankle grabs: Bend one knee and pull the heel towards the buttocks without arching the back.
  • Knee grabs: Bring one knee up to your chest as high as you can and pull the knee towards your chest with both hands.
  • Samson Lunges: Lunge forward with one leg and keep your core tight. Be sure the bent knee tracks over the foot but not over the toes. While in this position bring both of your arms overhead, keeping the elbows straight and slightly arch your back. The stretch should be felt in the front of the leg that is not bent.
  • Alternating lateral lunges: Lunge to the side, keeping the bent knee tracking over the foot. Keep the weight of the bent leg on the back of the heel and sit backwards as if you were to sit on a chair. The stretch should be felt on the inside of the leg that is not bent. Continue walking pattern by turning around to stretch the opposite leg.
  • Inchworms: Keeping both your knees as straight as possible, bend forward at the trunk until your palms reach the ground and then walk your hands out until you are in a push up plank position. Once you reach the full plank position, slowly inch your feet up towards your hands as close as possible. Repeat.
  • Teapots: With your hands on your hips, place your heel of one leg out in front of you with your toe upwards while bending the other knee. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.

There are many different ways to perform dynamic stretches and these are a few examples that an athlete can perform prior to working out. To get more information on dynamic stretching, please consult a professional in the exercise science field.