Flexibility is a critical component of overall health and fitness. It improves posture, reduces the risk of injury, and can even help you perform better in sports. And dynamic flexibility, well, that's more like your drunk uncle, who can still contribute to those some benefits and see to your development, but he also may roughhouse with you and test your limits.
Dynamic stretching exercises are one, albeit slightly more advanced, way to improve your flexibility. In this post, we’ll explore what dynamic stretching is, how it differs from other types of stretching exercises, and how to incorporate dynamic stretches into your exercise routine for maximum results. We’ll also discuss the benefits of incorporating balance exercises into your routine, as well as tips on taking breaks during longer sessions to avoid injury.
So if you’re looking to increase your flexibility with dynamic stretching exercises then read on!
The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching is a type of exercise in which you actively move your body through its full range of motion, often aggressively, as opposed to static stretching where you hold your body in one position for an extended period of time. For dancers and martial artists, these would focus on lower body leg swings, whereas baseball players might swing the arm up and back.
Dynamic stretches can be used to increase flexibility and range of motion, improve balance, and enhance coordination. Unlike static stretching, which are best done after exercise, dynamic flexibility training is best done as part of a warm-up routine before any physical activity.
Warm Up Before Your Exercise Routine
Before you start any exercise routine, it’s important to warm up both your body and mind. This can be done with dynamic stretching exercises or a light jog for 5-10 minutes. Warming up helps to reduce the risk of injury and prepares your muscles for physical activity.
That said, dynamic stretching is not without risk. It should be obvious that swinging a limb to or through it's max static length carries more risk than walking at an incline or doing a few jumping jacks. As such, it ought to be seen as a supplement, toward the back end of a normal warmup. And because range is tested aggressively, it's ideal to 'ease your way in,' with low and slow reps, and keeping reps per set low to let the body acclimate.
Start with Basic Movements and Increase Intensity Gradually
When beginning an exercise routine where 'performance' is of consideration, and not merely physique asthetics or BMI, dynamic stretching should be the foundation of your program, with an objective of reaching higher levels of dynamic flexibility 24-7. Incorporating dynamic warm-ups into your session can help prepare the body for more strenuous activities as well as reduce stress and improve range of motion. If your activity will test your limits as an athlete, this prep ought to be a mainstay.
Dynamic exercises should be done at a moderate pace, when first learning, to avoid injuries or exhaustion. Starting with dynamic movements at low intensities may take some time, but gradually increasing the intensity will pay dividends in the end. An overall dynamic warm-up is an important cornerstone to launching a successful 'functional' fitness program and protecting your body from injury.
Focus on Different Areas for Maximum Flexibility
Dynamic stretching exercises should focus on different areas of the body, including your core, legs, and arms. Exercises such as deep squats, long lunges, arm circles, and leg swings can help improve flexibility in all of these areas, but ought to be selected based on performance needs writ large, or the specific movements to be practiced on that day.
If you're a Shaolin monk, it's likely you'll need to wake up the full spectrum of dynamic movement - leg swings (rising kicks), full flying back bends, jump doublt front kick (forward bends), and jump splits, for example. If you're a quarterback in a touch football game, arm swings and deep squats may do the trick. When it comes to dynamic stretching for athletes, careful consideration to functional (performance-based) movements should inform the specific technique selection in the warmup. That may sound rather obvious, but as someone who's been coaching a couple decades now, I can attest it's often misapplied.
Take Breaks During Longer Sessions to Avoid Injury
If you’re doing a longer session of dynamic stretching exercises, it’s important to take breaks throughout the routine. In fact, the worst mistake you can make is treating dynamic stretching like general fitness training, where you're tying to bust out reps and keep the heart rate up. This is a great way incourage more tension generation, as your stretch reflex gets triggered and your nervous system tries to protect your joints.
Taking regular breaks among short, low rep sets allows your muscles and joints time to rest and recover, which can help reduce the risk of injury or fatigue. It'll also signal to your mind-body that all is well, no real risk is present, and as such, you'll realize greater levels of relaxation and dynamic flexibility with each successive set.
Finish With Cool Down Stretches to Relax Muscles
After incorporating dynamic stretching exercises to increase dynamic flexibility, it's important to end your workout with cool down stretches in order to relax the muscles and help them recover. Keep in mind, your body can often explore greater limits dynamically than in can access statically, but your static flexibility is the benchmark of 'safe' range. It must be the foundation of all flexibility training, and therefore never neglected post-training.
Cool down stretches should be low intensity compared to dynamic stretching but focus on the same areas of your body such as calf muscles, hamstrings, quads, and hips by doing light stretches for about 30 seconds each. Cooling down with gentle stretching can reduce post-workout fatigue and ensure that your muscles are relaxed after strenuous exercise. Depending on the type of exercise you performend in-workout, residual tension - tension that accumulates through a session due to contracting the same muscles over and over - can sustain for hours to days after a workout. Releasing that tension can have dramatic impacts on your recovery and mind-body control.
Releasing tension is a skill that transfers well beyond a workout.
In sum, dynamic stretching is an important part of any fitness routine. It helps to reduce the risk of injury and prepares your body for physical activity. By incorporating dynamic warm-ups into your session, you can increase range of motion, improve coordination and stability, as well as enhance performance in other areas such as strength and endurance. Additionally, it's essential to take regular breaks during longer sessions to avoid fatigue or injury, as well as finish with cool down stretches at the end in order to relax muscles and help them recover faster after strenuous exercise. With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way towards achieving a more dynamically flexible body that will last for years!