Dynamic stretching

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Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching beneficial in sports utilizing momentum from form, static-active stretching strength and the momentum from static-active stretching strength, in an effort to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion not exceeding one's static-passive stretching ability. Anything beyond this range of motion becomes ballistic stretching. It is a type of stretching while moving.

This form of stretching prepares the body for physical exertion and sports performance. In the past it was the practice to undertake static stretching before exercise. Dynamic stretching increases range of movement, blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion. Increasingly coaches and sports trainers are aware of the role in dynamic stretching in improving performance and reducing the risk of injury.

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Why dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretching is a technique gaining in popularity due to recent studies which show that traditional static stretching techniques do little to increase flexibility or reduce injury when performed before a workout. In fact, many studies show that static stretches actually have a detrimental effect on explosive movements and strength output.[1][2][3] There are two types of flexibility receptors, a static receptor, which measures magnitude and a dynamic receptor, which measure speed and magnitude. As one would expect, dynamic activities that require movement, such as running, jumping, or kicking use the dynamic receptor to limit flexibility. Therefore, a dynamic stretch that stresses the dynamic receptor is more beneficial when preparing for a warm-up when performing a dynamic activity.[3] Dynamic stretching also includes constant motion throughout the warm-up, which maintains the core body temperature, whereas static stretching can see a drop in temperature of several degrees.[1] Another benefit of dynamic stretching is that it prepares the muscles and joints in a more specific manner since the body is going through motions it will likely repeat in the workout. It also helps the nervous system and motor ability since dynamic motions do more to develop those areas than static stretches.[1] It is important to note that although many studies show the lack of benefit of static stretching before a workout, there is still much data to support the benefits of static stretching after a workout.[2]

How to do dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching works by the practitioner gently propelling their muscles towards their maximum range of motion. It is very important to note that the practitioner should not use jerky, forced movements to increase the range of motion beyond what is comfortable as it can easily cause injury.[3] In general, the practitioner wants to move (stretch) the muscle in a similar way that they are going to move them in a workout. For example a martial arts practitioner who wants to stretch a hamstring for a kick may swing a straight leg forward to gradually increase the height they can obtain. Doing light kicks, with little explosive acceleration, while gradually increasing height, could also be considered a dynamic stretch.

Dynamic stretching examples

Ankle pops

"Lightly bounce off both toes while keeping the knees very slightly bent. This is very similar to a skipping motion, except that it is performed while moving forward. The idea is to introduce progressively more range of motion as you move through the prescribed distance." [1]

High Knees

"This is basic running form while bringing the knees up higher than normal – ideally beyond your waistline. Aim to keep your feet moving as fast as possible and your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forwards." [1]

Butt kicks

"Similar to high knees except you keep your thighs pointing to the ground while kicking your heels up towards your backside. Again, move fast and keep ankles, knees, hips and shoulders in alignment." [1]

Carioca

"Moving laterally to your left, cross your right foot in front of your left, then step with your left, then cross your right foot behind the left and repeat. Aim for as much hip rotation as possible and keep those feet moving fast." [1]

Glute walk

"In the process of your walk, put your left hand on your left knee and right hand on your left ankle, then pull both in towards your chest. Take a step and repeat on the other leg." [1]

Back pedal

"Run backwards maintaining a little bit of a forward lean (shoulders over your toes) to prevent falling. Really ‘reach back’ as far as you can with each step to help stretch the hip flexor muscles." [1]

Frankenstein march or the Toy Soldier

"Keeping your left leg straight, kick it up in front of you as high as you can, trying to touch the fingertips of the opposite arm – basically a straight leg march – then repeat with the right leg. This is an excellent way to stretch hamstrings." [1]

Knee hug

"While walking forward, hug your left knee into your chest, then step and repeat on the right leg, continuing with alternate legs. This is an excellent way to loosen up the glutes and hips." [1]

Pointers

"Keeping your left leg straight (and right leg bent) and left foot pointed upwards, reach down with your right hand to try to touch your left toe. Then take a step and repeat on the other side. This is another excellent movement for enhancing hamstring and low back flexibility." [1]

Quad walk

"While walking forwards, pull your left heel in to your butt, then step and repeat with the right leg, continuing with alternate legs. This is ideal for loosening up the quadriceps and hip flexors." [1]

Low lunge

"Step forward with your left leg into a lunge position (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forward, torso upright) trying to place your left elbow on the ground as close to your left heel as possible." [1]

Over the fence

"Facing in the opposite direction to the way you want to travel, raise your left knee as high as possible and rotate it behind you as if you were trying to walk backwards and step over an imaginary fence. Repeat on the right leg and continue with alternate legs." [1]

Inchworm

"Assume a push-up position on the ground, and walk your feet close to your hands while keeping the legs as straight as possible. Then return to the start position. Repeat over the prescribed distance, making sure your hands and feet never leave the ground." [1]

Scorpion

"Lie face down on the ground with arms extended out to the sides, palms facing down, so your body forms a ‘T’ shape. Maintaining this facedown position and keeping your shoulders flat on the ground, bring your left heel and swing it back towards your right hand in a reverse twisting motion. Repeat on the other leg." [1]

See also

References