Two words so powerful, yet constantly overlooked.
Two words that have the power to drastically improve your workout and your performance, almost instantly.
I recently wrote about the difference between static stretching vs dynamic stretching.
I want you to check that out first.
Today, I’m focusing solely on dynamic stretching and I’ll show you five killer dynamic stretching exercises that you must incorporate into your routine.
Let’s get started.
The sad truth is that stretching exercises (especially dynamic stretching exercises) are generally an afterthought – they are the unfortunate leftovers of a workout. Why is this the case?
Why do we ignore such an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle?
Remember that a healthy lifestyle consists of a proper balance between cardiovascular training, resistance training and flexibility training. We place so much emphasis on the first two that the last one is often done half-assed or, even worse, not done at all.
This is a huge mistake.
Before anything, it’s first important to read and understand the benefits of flexibility training. Apart from minimizing acute and chronic injuries, proper and adequate stretching can improve your posture, reduce stress in your muscles and improve your overall performance in everyday activities.
If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that I advocate using dynamic stretching before a movement-based workout and a static stretching routine for post-workout. Dynamic stretching does a great job of improving dynamic flexibility and can be a part of your warm up for any movement-based activity.
To help you get started, here are five killer dynamic stretching exercises that you can do to get your body ready for action.
1) Forward Leg Swing
This is a great exercise that dynamically stretches your hip flexors and extensors. I use it before all of my lower body (or full body) workouts. I also use it with all of the athletes that I work with.
Always make sure you get your body temperature up with a warm up of some sort before doing any of these exercises. Your tissues are more pliable when they are warm.
Find something you can hold onto that provides enough space for you to swing your leg forwards and back in front of you. A wall will do.
Flex and extend one leg at a time. Keep your legs straight (but knees unlocked) and your upper body straight and facing forward. Your eyes should be facing in front and your shoulder blades should be retracted.
Start by making small swings and progress the stretch a little bit every swing. After 10 or 15 swings you should be reaching your highest point. Do the same thing for the other leg.
If you would like to go more advanced, don’t hold onto anything. I started doing this a few months ago and I must admit it takes great balance and coordination. It helps if you focus on one point and use your opposite hand to touch your toe.
Check out this video for clarification of the exercise.
2) Sideways Leg Swing
This is another great exercise I use with my athletes. This exercise dynamically stretches your adductors and abductors and it goes great with the forward leg swing. I always use the two before any of my movement-based workouts.
Find something to hold onto. I typically do mine against a wall. Face the wall and place both hands on it for balance. Swing one leg at a time from side to side. It helps if you get on your toes as you swing.
Make sure you are facing the wall throughout the entire swinging process. Don’t let your torso rotate as you swing because you want to place the focus on your adductors and abductors.
Here’s a great video that shows how to properly do a sideways leg swing. Notice how he is always on his toes and pay attention to the range of his swing. Keep both things in mind.
3) Forward Lunge with Torso Twist
This is a tough exercise but it’s great for dynamically stretching your hip extensors. It’s also great for preparing your torso for action.
Start with a forward lunge. Keep your upper body straight, head and chest up and shoulder blades retracted. Extend both arms in front of you. As you step forward into a lunge, twist your torso to the side of the leg you stepped out with. Twist until you feel a slight stretch and hold for a second. Bring your torso back to a forward-facing position and step back to original position. Do the same for the other leg. Eight to ten lunges to each side is usually good enough.
Try to squeeze your glutes on each repetition. Each time you step out, squeeze the glute of the back leg. This will help you better engage the stretch and will also prevent your back from arching.
Check out this quick video demonstration. This girl uses a light dumbell to make the exercise more difficult. This isn’t necessary for the purposes of dynamic stretching but feel free to try it (medicine balls work great too). Note that you don’t have to do a walking lunge. You can simply step out and push off with the front leg to return to starting position.
4) Bent-over Torso Twist
This is one of my favorite dynamic stretching exercises. Although it’s fairly simple, it does a great job for preparing my hamstrings, glutes, core muscles and adductors for movement.
Start by standing with your feet wide apart. Extend your arms out to the sides and bend over touching your right food with your left hand. Rotate your torso so now your right hand touches your left foot. Ensure both arms are extended out so when one hand touches the foot, the other hand is pointing to the sky. Keep rotating like this for 30 repetitions at a moderate pace.
Make sure that your back is straight (not arched) and that your shoulder blades are retracted. Don’t flex your back! Keep your upper body aligned properly. Keep your legs extended (but knees unlocked) as you perform your repetitions.
5) Side-to-side Prisoner Squats
Prisoner squats are great bodyweight exercises. They’re also great for dynamically stretching your adductors.
A prisoner squat is performed with your hands behind your head. Your feet should be slightly past shoulder-width with your feet slightly angled out. Initiate the squat by hinging your hips back and sitting back. This will prevent your knees from going past your toes. Keep your back straight, chest up and head facing forward in front of you. Go down until your thighs are parallel with the ground. As you come up, pivot on one leg and turn 180 degrees to face the other side. Perform another prisoner squat. Keep pivoting until you do a total of 10 prisoner squats on each side (20 total).
This exercise is great for preparing your lower body for a workout.
There you have it – five killer dynamic stretching exercises to get you ready for your workout.
If that’s not enough, I recommend you check out this in-depth guide on dynamic stretching. It’s called the Complete Dynamic Warm-up and it’s my bible when it comes to dynamic stretching. You can check it out here.
What are your thoughts on dynamic stretching or stretching in general? Is it a big part of your healthy lifestyle? Do you use or know of any other dynamic stretching exercises?