Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dynamic stretching

I first heard the expression "dynamic stretching" early on in my fitness career, back when my only workout was a Jillian Michaels video, viewed for free on Exercise TV On Demand.  My limited exercise experience before that included playing soccer and softball, as well as gym class's dreaded Mile and occasional weight room rotations.  Suffice it to say, I didn't know much.

What Jillian Michaels taught me in her 30 Day Shred was that we warm up the body with movement, through dynamic stretching.  That is, we open up our joints and wake up our muscles by moving our bodies through a range of motion, rather than holding a static stretch (like those we did in gym class) before our workout begins.  Save those static stretches--holding a pose over many seconds or longer--for when the workout is complete.

I still hear Jillian's voice like it was just yesterday...  Here's an example from a different, more recent video of hers, but the idea is the same:

You get the idea.

Jillian was my sole guide to fitness at the time, so I trusted her and it stuck with me.  I warmed up dynamically on my own, and scoffed when group exercise instructors kicked off class with static stretches.  But was this correct?  Why is dynamic stretching better than static?  Fortunately, Steve Messineo has some answers.

In 5 Reasons Why Dynamic Is Better Than Static Stretching, Messineo explains how dynamic stretches involve continuous movement throughout the exercise in order to gain muscle flexibility.  He then lists five reasons why dynamic stretching is more effective in increasing muscle flexibility and overcoming pain from injuries.
  1. Promotes blood flow to the region, thus warming up the muscle. 
  2. Allows increased flexibility for more than one muscle group at a time. 
  3. More comfortable than static stretces, because not holding the muscle in a stretch for too long. 
  4. Promotes strength and stability.
  5. Give more bang for your buck; you'll complete a total-body warm-up in only 4 to 5 minutes, compared with 10 minutes of static stretching.

Definitely check out the article for more details!  He explains how dynamic stretching accomplishes the above, and how these benefits, in turn, prevent injury.

So I'll continue with my dynamic stretches before working my muscles, and I dare you to do the same!

If you're a runner, try this dynamic warmup from FitSugar to get your legs ready to pound pavement.

The Get-Fit Guy confirms that static stretching can make you weaker rather than reducing injury risk, so he recommends a dynamic stretching warmup that includes arm and leg swings, torso twists, jumping jacks, or fast running. Try these! Move your body through a full range-of-motion before you get to work.

You can also check out LIVESTRONG.com's Warm Up Exercises for Weight Training.

Dare you to try some of these dynamic stretches before your next workout!

How do you stretch before exercising?  What's your favorite way to warm up? 


  1. I have to admit to not stretching much, but I think I could be better with dynamic stretching, unusually warm up by just easing into the run.

    1. Yeah that's one way to do it. Even starting with a brisk walk or jog is still dynamic movements, rather than sitting down to do static stretches.

  2. YES!!! Dynamic stretching is so important and the BEST for warming up.

  3. So true, I started doing it years ago after an ITB injury and now do it every single time before I run!

    1. Yep! Good for injury prevention. All good since, I hope!

  4. Was just at a running analysis for a group. While two PTs were taping runners on the treadmill, another was discussing stretching and strength building. Not a single static stretch in the demonstrations.

  5. Hi!
    Love this post. I need to try out some of the dynamic ideas that you shared! I just joined your blog via google friend connect, so I can stay in touch with your posts!!
    I blog over at www.imfitpossible.com. I would love for you to check out my bloggy blog too!!
    Cheers! Tara

    1. Glad you stumbled over here! Do stay in touch :) I'm headed over to learn about I'm Fit Possible now!

  6. Thanks for this post. I coach cross country and we always have the team warm up by jogging a little followed by drills (dynamic stretching). Believe it or not, they are the hardest to convince that static stretching does them no good. I actually think they just like to sit around in their big stretching circle and chat.:-)


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