5 Killer Dynamic Stretching Exercises

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Dynamic stretching…

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?

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Comments

  1. It is true the stretching exercises are not talked about much. Most fitness talk is about cardio endurance and strength training with weights. It’s good to see someone addressing the flexibility aspects of fitness.

  2. I really like these types of stretching maneuvers. One of my favorite ones to perform are the Forward Lunge With Torso Twist. The exercise is an excellent leg and core combo.
    I will try a couple of the others you mentioned too.
    -Sam

  3. Nice post, its really easy to neglect the importance of stretching to be honest. I have done for a long time. But I’ll be giving these a go.

    Michael

    • It’s OK Michael, you’re not the only one. Too often I see people booking it out of the gym as soon as they’re done – no stretching whatsoever. It’s a waste really. Why not take advantage of your muscles being loose and pliable when they’re PERFECT for stretching.

  4. Thank you for bringing this topic. Stretching is healing for desk job people and improves achievements in workout. Last summer I did 1,5 hour stretching 4-5 times per week and after 2 months I could squat deeper and I saw form improvement in many exercises. Now I do static stretching after every workout (it is just 3 minutes routine) and dynamic stretching before workout (5 minutes routine).

    • No problem! I believe that training for flexibility is just as important as training for strength or cardiovascular health. I never mentioned this, but you brought up a good point – being flexible helps you do your exercises better.

      What kind of dynamic stretching exercises do you do?

  5. My dynamic and static exercises are the same but I do them in different way. For example before workout I stretch hamstring with bend down and moving up and down, pushing down. After the workout I do the same but I grab my calves/ankles and pull with elbows pointing out and hold. The difference is in execution, not in exercises.

  6. Kathy Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing these. I’m excited to use them.

  7. Really great article. I’m building a workout routine for myself and I’ve been looking for a good active stretching routine to incorporate. My only confusion here is that you say these are great for getting ready for a workout, but in your “Benefits of Flexibility Training” article from September 16 you say stretching should be done after the workout. In your opinion, is it one or the other, or both?

    Thanks for a great website! I’m loving the articles.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Brian. Here’s the answer to your question:

      I do stretches before and after a workout. The only difference is the TYPE of stretches I do. Before a workout (especially a movement-based workout), I do the dynamic stretching exercises listed in this post. After a workout, I do static stretches. These are the stretches you’re probably more familiar with where you would hold a stretch in a static position for 15-20 seconds. The difference between the two is explained in detail in the “Benefits of Flexibility Training” article you referenced.

      Dynamic stretches do a great job of preparing your muscles and joints for activity (i.e. your workout). Static stretches are great because they help lengthen and stress-relieve your muscles AFTER a workout.

      I hope that clears things up a bit. If you’re still unsure shoot me an email and I’ll give you a more detailed explanation.

  8. Hey, thanks for posting this. I been trying to find good stretching routines and you explained these both kinds well. With it being winter here 10 months out of the year I have a hard time getting motivation to jog and it’s also above 7,000 ft where i am. Now that’s it’s finally warming up outside I have started jogging, I can only go about 4miles. My main focus is mainly stretching, I can finally lay my hands flat on the floor standing up, but after reading this idk if I am stretching to early, like, what is a proper warm up before stretching?

    Thank you

    • Wow you get 10 months of winter out of the year?? I thought it was bad here in Canada…where are you from?

      The one thing you don’t want to do is stretch right off the bat. Your muscles are cool and tight so they are less pliable and injuries can occur. This is how I would do it: run a short distance (until you’re at the brink of sweating) and then perform a short series of dynamic stretches (like the ones outlined in my post); then finish off your run. After your run, perform a series of static stretches to stress-relieve your muscles.

      Let me know if you need any help. You can always shoot me an email and I’d be glad to help out :)

  9. haha well it’s winter to me, I live in Laramie, WY and although we don’t get allot of snow accumulation, we get strong winds, and personally i find it unpleasant to have either dirt or snow hitting my face. the weather here is so unpredictable, it will be snowing like crazy, then 70deg the next day, then snowing again. 2 summers ago we had one day start snowing, rain, then hail and then a tornado.

    Anywho, I will try to do what you suggested and see how it works out. right now i’m just trying to set a routine, but I want to do it the right way and not hurt my self in the process lol. Also, how do I e-mail you? is there a link or I think i’m just blind haha.

    • That sounds like a bizarre series of events that happened two summers ago. I’m glad you guys made it out alive. Here in Canada it’s a little bit different – we get TONS of snow but I guess I prefer that over strong winds and a face full of dirt!

      You’re on the right track with your training – it’s important to do things the right way. This way you will avoid injuries and ensure your training is effective.

      My email is listed in the About tab but just in case you are blind you can email me at bloomtofit@gmail.com ;) Feel free to email me any questions you may have!

  10. All 5 exercises are super dynamic. I’m not too comfortable with flexibility or stretch exercises so some of these great stretching exercise looks difficult to me but I’m sure those lighter in weight will enjoy doing these exercises.

    • I don’t think weight should play a factor when it comes to training for flexibility. Start with simple dynamic exercises such as simple bodyweight lunges, body twists or just find a way to warm up by putting the muscles you are about to stress through their full range of motion. Stretching can and should be done by everyone!

  11. Nice! I’ll do these ones next time I hit the gym.

  12. Thanks for writing these articles, I’ve learnt a lot
    Btw do you have any upper body specific dynamic stretches ?

  13. Neil Gribben says:

    As a keen martial artist I can only agree with evrything Srdjan says about the general benefits of dynamic stretches over static stretches.
    I use dynamic stretches invariably in every work out I do and it is pleasing to see that the 5 exercises listed above are indeed already part of my routine in some variation or another (how on earth did I manage to fluke that?!) plus a few others.
    In my experience one massive added bonus of preferring dynamic style stretches (which should always be done in a relaxed way exploiting but not forcing your full range of motion otherwise you increase your risk of injury), is that once you reach your required level of flexibility it is easy to maintain this level predominantly using dynamic stretches, to the point where I now only do static stretching as part of a yoga/strength set once a week.
    My required level is to be able to kick with power in excess of my own head height. I’m 5’10” and can easily reach above this and the both the leg swing exercises are invaluable for me to be able to maintain this.
    Great advice Srdjan, now how about something on plyometrics? :)

    • Great comment Neil. You touched on some really important points. There is another form of stretching that is useful, but may not be so applicable to you. And that’s corrective stretching. It’s a type of static stretching variation that is designed to re-balance the joints before we put them in their range of motion. I’ll talk about this more in a future post.

      As for plyometrics, I talk a lot about jumping rope which is in itself an incredible plyometric training option. But there’s much more to plyometrics than just jumping so I’ll see what I can put together.

      • Neil Gribben says:

        thank you
        I appreciate your feedback and as I grow more and more impressed with your methods as I systematically work through your blog back catalogue I’m sure I will appreciate your tried and tested advice even more. :)
        Due to my slightly restricted training facilities (namely my home gym…see post on the setting up a home gym thread) I am predominantly reliant on body weight exercises to achieve my goals
        I’m looking forward to what you have to offer and see how that varies from previous advice I’ve had

  14. Nhat Thanh says:

    hi! dear srdjan!
    i’ve worked out air alert-vertical jump program, i wonder after working out should use what kind of stretching dynamic or static, as i know, static will descrease my vertical leap, if i do static then do dynamic? or just static or not static just cool down then dynamic?
    help me plz, and thanks u so much

    • Hey Nhat. Air-alert is a very plyometric based training program (too much volume in my opinion). I would definitely recommend going with a dynamic warm-up before your workout and a static stretching routine after your workout. Static stretching will not impact your vertical leap, but it might decrease performance if you do it before your workout (a number of studies show this). So stay away from static stretches before plyo to be on the safe side.

  15. Yoga is the answer to the lack of emphasis on flexibility I think. Im the single stiffest individual person on the planet.

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