Dynamic stretching is an important practice for many an athlete’s training routine. It helps improve flexibility, mobility and coordination, as well as reduce the risk of injury during exercise or competition. Dynamic stretches are a great way to warm up before physical activity and help athletes stay in peak condition.
In this post we will explore what dynamic stretching is, its benefits for athletes, how to incorporate it into your routine and some examples of effective dynamic stretch sequences. So let’s get started!
What is Dynamic Stretching and why is it beneficial for athletes
Dynamic flexibility training has been used by athletes for millenia to boost performance, agility and power. This type of stretching involves movements that actively work muscles at the same time as they are being stretched. Repeating dynamic stretches require the body to move through a full range of motion, improving flexibility, functional baseline, and core strength.
The benefits of dynamic stretching for athletes include better postural control and coordination, improved balance, enhanced muscular strength and power, reduced risk of muscle strain and injury, and improved muscle memory for preferred movements. Therefore dynamic stretching plays an essential role in providing the best possible outcome for athletes’ well-being during training or competition.
Types of dynamic stretching exercises
Dynamic stretching refers to a type of active motion exercise that is designed to improve dynamic elasticity in the body, which means targeting the same muscle groups used in normal movement, though to full range, and at increasing velocities. Examples of dynamic stretching exercises include walking lunges (long lunges), dynamic arm circles, dynamic leg swings (or 'rising kicks' in martial arts), dynamic ankle circles, dynamic trunk twists and dynamic hip rotations.
Those techniques selected must be customized for the performance needs of the athlete. Someone doing powerlifting or advanced calistenthics may choose to incorporate excercises that mimic or prime key movements, through to greater range, and with more elastic 'bounce.' For someone practicing the deadlift or clean and jerk, for example, the deep squat (ass to grass) is an obvious example, as would be arm swings that loosen the shoulder joints.
A martial artist or dancer who incorporates aggressive or dynamic kicking in their training / performance, can prime those movements with leg swings (rising kicks), maintaining locked knee and erect spine, which isolates the stretch in the hamstrings and glutes. These are in fact critical preparations, as they'll notify the athlete of real limitations and active range for that very workout. All athletes know their personal degrees of performance variance, which may not be noticeable to observers. But millimeters in extension beyond the body's primed capacity can lead to injury.
Benefits of dynamic stretching for athletes, including improved flexibility, increased mobility, better coordination and balance
Dynamic stretching helps athletes improve their performance by enhancing flexibility, mobility, coordination and balance. Dynamic stretching involves a controlled range of motion exercises that target specific muscle groups and prepares the body for specific activity. Each dynamic stretch is intended to ‘warm up’ the muscles for those activities and movements that are encountered during physical activity, as well as prime or decondition the body's natural stretch reflex, which can lead to unconscious (and unwanted) tightening of the muscle as you're trying to lengthen it. This natural reflex is a protection mechanism, but when triggered by advanced athletes who know their active range, this reflex can cause strains and tears.
Additionally, benefits gained from dynamic stretching can include increased blood flow to an athlete's working muscles, improved speed power and agility, improved posture and range of motion, as well as providing psychological benefits such as reducing stress before competition or practices. It is beneficial for any athlete to perform dynamic stretches in order to help reduce risk of injury while training and competing at a higher level.
How to incorporate dynamic stretching into your training routine
Incorporating dynamic stretching into your training routine is an easy way to improve both performance and recovery. Dynamic stretching involves gradually increasing the intensity of your working muscles by using dynamic movement patterns such as body-weight exercises, lunges, squats, or dynamic stretches. This provides a great way to increase circulation in the muscles while also warming up your joints, tendons, and ligaments at a low-intensity level. This is a far more affective way to prime the body than static stretching, because you're only working to levels of depth that are controllable. One doesn't (shouldn't) push to a range of motion that is unaccompanied by strength in that range.
After dynamic stretching is complete, it’s best to transition directly into high-intensity activities such as explosive movement, plyometrics, and ballistic weight training, and later, to endurance based cardio or strength work. This helps ensure that your body is properly prepared for more strenuous moves and reduces any chance of injury. It also allows your body to exert the greatest effort / explosiveness / speed and power when it's freshest, and then to finish off lower risk, repetetitive strength and endurance training.
Furthermore, dynamic stretching aids in pain prevention which can be especially beneficial during competitive events. Overall dynamic stretching is a great strategic addition to any total training regimen that should not be overlooked.
Safety tips when doing dynamic stretches
It is important for everyone to take safety precautions whenever dynamic stretching, such as making sure that your dynamic movements stay within the full range of motion for each joint (as defined by the ability to contract/control those momements with a bit of force).
All dynamic stretches should be done in a controlled manner without bouncing or jerking movements. This doesn't however, mean they cannot be practiced ballistically. It just means that the faster one moves, the smoother the movement must be.
Additionally, dynamic stretches should never be forced in any direction or beyond your body’s capabilities - static stretch post- dynamic movement can further enhance flexibility and dynamic range of motion. Lastly, it is important to stop dynamic stretching if you experience pain or extreme discomfort during the movement as this could indicate an underlying issue that should be addressed through additional stretching and foam rolling techniques.
Examples of effective dynamic stretch sequences for athletes
Dynamic stretching can be an invaluable asset to any athlete's fitness routine. Convenient, efficient, and dynamic, dynamic stretching sequences can help athletes warm up their muscles before they start their workout routines or even cool them down after a particularly strenuous exercise session (thought less aggressively than at the start of a session).
Examples of effective dynamic stretch sequences for athletes might include some combination of torso rotations, arm circles, hip openers, and bodyweight exercises such as high kicks and dynamic lunges. When creating dynamic stretch sequences for athletes, it is important that each movement transition easily into the next without overstretching any specific area; this in turn will help minimize risk of injury and maximize the effectiveness of the dynamic sequence.
One of the most important cues to take note of, is alignment of the spine. While there are dynamic stretches that can be done to improve dynamic spine mobility, these should be reserved for advanced athletes with great static spine range. For most athletes however, maintaining neutral spine provides a central source of stability, around which, one can actively work to loosen joints and explore dynamic range.
Ways to make sure you get the most out of your dynamic stretching sessions
Dynamic stretching can be a great way to give your body increased range of motion, enhance circulation, and prepare muscles before they are exerted. To make sure you get the most out of dynamic stretching sessions, try incorporating dynamic stretching into your regular warm up routine. Additionally, it is important to focus on your breathing while performing dynamic stretches to ensure you're relaxed enough to truly activate the correct muscles. Finally, make sure to listen to your body and know when to take breaks if needed; dynamic stretching should not cause pain or fatigue. Keep these cues in mind:
- Use dynamic stretching to 'prime' the body for more strenuous work
- Perform it early in the workout
- Start low and slow, gradually increase range on successive sets / reps
- Sets should be low volume (3-5), to ensure conscientious attention and mind muscle connection
- Breathing should be relaxed, and coordinated (exhale as you fight gravity)
- Eyes should have a fixed focal point
- Spine should be neutral (unless spine mobility is the stretch in question)
Dynamic stretching is an effective tool for athletes looking to increase their range of motion, enhance circulation, and warm up before physical activity. The key to making sure you get the most out of your dynamic stretching sessions is consistency - incorporate it into your regular warm-up routine and focus on breathing while performing each stretch. Be mindful of any pain or fatigue that arises during a session; if this occurs take a break until you are ready to continue. With deliberate practice and adherence to safety precautions, dynamic stretching can become an invaluable asset in improving performance over time.