Dynamic Stretching 101 + Video Series
What is dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching refers to active movements of muscles that result in a stretch. Put simply, it’s stretching while in motion, as opposed to static stretching. The goal with dynamic stretching is to prime the muscles and tendons for maximum output, get optimum blood flow going and improve flexibility prior to a training, actual game, or workout session.
Everything You Should Know about dynamic stretching
On a fundamental level, stretching comes naturally and instinctively. Say after waking from sleep or after extended periods of inactivity. Genetics is the reason for that. However today, stretching isn’t simply a mindless activity that echoes millions of years of evolution (animals stretch too), it is now an integral tenet of physical fitness. And for good reason.
That said, fitness stretching didn’t always enjoy such widespread support. The American College of Sports Medicine only started recommending flexibility exercises (stretching) for athletes in 1998. Furthermore, for several decades, static stretching was the gold standard.
But with in-depth research of static stretching effectiveness revealing significant drawbacks, the dynamic stretching steamroller kicked into gear. Eventually, dynamic stretching replaced static stretching as the warm up style of choice for virtually everyone, from the average Joe and Jane to professional athletes.
This article discusses all of the noteworthy details relating to dynamic stretching that should fill up the holes in your knowledge about dynamic warm up.
Is there a difference between dynamic stretching and dynamic warm up?
The short answer is no.
Dynamic stretching and dynamic warm up are synonyms. However, it is understandable that some may say they’re interchangeable in certain contexts but not in others. This is because it is standard (and recommended) practice to do dynamic stretching before an actual workout or game. In this sense, it is part of the warm up, in which case the term ‘dynamic warm up’ is appropriate.
Still, and especially for athletes and training sessions, warm up doesn’t entirely comprise of a routine of dynamic stretches. In fact, it is common to engage in activities like a short run or jog, rowing, or inch worms for quite some time before doing dynamic stretches. The aforementioned activities are traditional warm up activities, and the term ‘dynamic stretching’ is often used in this context to emphasize the distinction.
Nonetheless, in this guide (and in general fitness literature), both terms are typically used interchangeably.
What are the benefits of dynamic stretching?
- It activates the right muscles. It goes without saying that you should do dynamic stretches on the muscles you plan on using during workout. You want to do walking lunges as a preferred dynamic stretch for example, if you intend to do weighted lunges in the gym.
This way, your hips, legs, core, glutes, stabilizing muscle fibers and connective tissues are warmed up before you add additional weight.
- It improves body and neuromuscular awareness. Dynamic stretching with the muscles you plan on using afterwards gets you in the right frame of mind as it challenges your coordination and balance.
Your nervous system is elevated as is your motor ability, which is crucial to reaping the maximum rewards of the workout and/or improving performance.
- It improves range of motion. You don’t want to be as stiff as a board going into a workout. The very nature of dynamic stretching requires you to slowly but crucially extend the range of motion of the muscle being stretched.
For example, doing walking lunges requires taking the hips, especially the hip flexors, through increasingly greater range of motion. This systemic increase allows for improved muscle engagement for each exercise
- It enhances muscular strength and power. This follows from the increased range of motion that enables you to perform each exercise more efficiently. Activating the muscles and increasing their range of motion also help “wake up” any underactive muscles leading to enhanced muscular power and strength.
- Furthermore, dynamic stretching also elevates core muscle and body temperature. The implication is that there’d be an increase in nerve conduction velocity, enzymatic cycling, muscle compliance, and accelerated energy production.
In layman speak, dynamic stretching will give your body systems a kick to prepare for further movement.
How Long Should Should a dynamic warm up be?
The routine should be from 5 - 15 minutes. You can exceed the 15 minute time frame if needed, there is no wrong in doing so. It varies by person, some need 15 minutes, others will only need 5 minutes. The answer depends on how the body is feeling. Is it ready for activity? If it is, then yes. If not, continue to warm up until the body feels primed.
Our 21 how-to videos will cover all the muscle groups!
All exercises can be done anywhere.
Click here to watch the video series.
This video series will demonstrate how to incorporate specific dynamic stretches in your day to day life in order to keep your body primed for your training, sporting event, or athletic competition.
We focus on incorporating movement in all planes of motion, in order to teach effective, dynamic, and engaging exercises. We strive to provide an environment that promotes not just strength building but also encourages maintenance and improvement of range of motion throughout life.
What does science say about dynamic warm up?
In the previous section, we cited two studies that give credence to stated benefits of dynamic warm up. But there’s more.
Fitness and sports are billion dollar industries and it is unsurprising that lots of research on dynamic stretching have been done to help squeeze out every bit of performance and health benefit it has to offer. More are in the pipeline expectedly.
In 2009, a University of Alberta study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research measured the impact of dynamic stretching, static stretching, and light aerobic warm-ups on muscular performance in [untrained] women. Scientists concluded that, “warm-ups with an active component have beneficial effects.” Furthermore, data revealed that dynamic stretching had “greater applicability to enhance performance on power outcomes compared to static stretching.”
In 2010, a meta-analysis of 32 studies on performance and warming up reiterated already understood positive impact of active warm-up on performance. when done prior to engaging in a sport. The magic number was 79% improvement across all criteria examined.
In 2014, another systematic review of 31 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine had the same findings. The researchers surmised that “strong research-based evidence” point to the fact that “high-load dynamic warm-ups enhance power and strength performance.” On the flip side, they also noted that, “short-duration static stretching warm-up had no effect on power outcomes.”
On Preventing Injury
In 2008, a study published in The BMJ sought to examine the effect of a comprehensive warm-up program comprising dynamic stretching, jumping, running, and targeted exercises on reducing the risk of injury in about 2000 (1,892) soccer players. Researchers found that the program reduced overall risk of injury by 35% and severe injuries by about half.
In 2011, a similar-sized study of 1,500 athletes published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA] Pediatrics yielded similar results. A combination of balance, strength, plyometric, and other dynamic stretching exercises prior to practice for 20 minutes resulted in:
- 56% reduction in acute non-contact injuries
- 65% reduction in gradual-onset injuries
- 66% reduction in noncontact ankle sprains
In 2014, a review of 11 studies published in Orthopaedic Nursing made the important inference that “sport or activity-specific tailored stretch and warm-up program yielded the best outcomes in relation to preventing injuries.
Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching
Several types of stretching abound. The most common are dynamic stretching, static stretching, PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), passive (or relaxed) stretching, active stretching, ballistic stretching, isometric stretching, AIS (active isolated stretching), and myofascial release.
Of these, dynamic, static, passive, active, and PNF are the most used. Ballistic pretty much has a “yellow triangle with exclamation” mark in the fitness community; and the others are well, limited use or have specific use cases.
That said, as already mentioned, to get the most out of stretching, you shouldn’t just do it for the sake of it or adapt any stretch that tickles your fancy. The benefits of dynamic stretching are well known. But of the other types of stretches, static stretches are the most compared to dynamic stretches.
So we know dynamic stretching involves putting body parts through continuous motion (movement patterns) and gradually increasing range of movement (reach), speed of movement, or both. Static or yin stretching is simpler—extend/flex a muscle or group of muscles to its farthest (maximal) point and maintain/hold that position.
Passive stretching is closely related to static stretching, and both terms are often used interchangeably. Passive stretching, or more accurately static-passive stretching, is essentially static stretching where an external force (a person/partner or an apparatus—like a wall) brings the joint through its range of motion and helps to maintain the held position and/or provide intensity.
By nature, dynamic stretching mimics the exercise or sport you want to perform; and so is best suited for warm up prior to your workout. Contrastingly, static stretching by nature does not bolster readiness, flexibility, and priming as much as dynamic warm up does. As such using it as part of your warm up routine is ill advised.
Nonetheless, static stretching is appropriate for post-workout cool down as it’d help reduce post-workout muscle fatigue and soreness as well as maintain long-term flexibility benefits. Static stretches are also best suited for relieving spasms in muscles recovering from/healing after an injury. Even after sitting at a desk for a long time or a similar extended period of inactivity, static stretches help: humans and animals alike do them sub-consciously in these scenarios.
In a nutshell, both types of stretching are useful. You only have to use them at the right time for the right purpose to extract the benefits they offer. Dynamic stretching is for warmup before you work out: static stretching is for recovery after the workout.
A study by Greek scientists published in Pediatric Exercise Science sought to compare the effects of static and dynamic stretching on the running speed of gymnasts during vaulting. The gymnasts were asked to perform three different protocols—warm-up, warm-up & static stretching, and warm-up & dynamic stretching. Post hoc data analysis revealed that the mean speed of the gymnasts “significantly decreased after the application of the static stretching protocol.”
A more recent Greek study published in the Journal of Sport and Human Performance made the same comparisons on running speed, albeit with soccer players as the participants. The administered protocols were 10 minutes of jogging & 5 minutes of static exercise and 10 minutes of jogging & 5 minutes of dynamic exercise. Post hoc data analysis revealed similar results. The static stretching protocol significantly reduced the running speed capacity, while the dynamic stretching protocol significantly improved the running speed capacity of the soccer players.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of dynamic stretching and static stretching on power and agility. The research participants were 30 cadets at the United States Military Academy. The three protocols were dynamic warm up (DWU), static-stretching warm up (SWU), and no warm up (NWU). Researchers stated that repeated analysis revealed “better performance scores after the DWU for all three performance tests.”
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research exclusively sought to determine the acute effect of static stretching on lower-body strength. The research results detailed a 22% decrease in lower-body stability.
A Croatian extensive review of 104 studies published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports had a result that was just as critical. The researchers specifically considered only studies that used “static stretching as an exclusive warm-up.” Muscle strength reduced by almost 5.5%, with longer holds of 90 seconds or more having a more negative impact. In addition, researchers noted a significant drop in explosive muscular performance.
Dynamic Stretching Safety
Are there any risks?
Minimal but yes, the risk of injury increases if an individual performs dynamic stretch in a hurry. You should endeavor to complete the motion properly to forestall possible muscle sprains or tears.
- This follows from the last paragraph: Start slowly and increase your range of motion gradually. Your dynamic stretching movements should be in a controlled manner.
- Perform a few minutes of light aerobic activity, such as cycling or jogging, before you get on with dynamic stretches.
- Try not to perform dynamic stretching routines for too long. The upper limit according to some studies is 12 minutes.
- Overstretching or bouncing at the end of the motion is a no-no
The evidence is as clear as it gets; dynamic stretching offers a trove of benefits when used as part of a workout routine, specifically the warm up, with no downsides.
The movements are typically repetitive, and with each successive pass, the range of motion is extended up to a safe limit.
Dynamic stretches by nature are simple, don’t have to take too long, or put in any discomfort. And as long as you follow the directives of your trainer, instructor, and/or diligently apply the tips outlined above, you should get optimal performance boost during your exercise or training.