EVERYONE knows you should stretch before a workout – but are you doing it correctly?
According to a top personal trainer, most people aren’t.
Many fitness enthusiasts opt for several static stretches instead of doing them dynamically.
This means they haven’t elevated their heart rate or warmed their muscles in preparation for physical activity, putting them at risk of injury, according to Jessica Chellsen.
The fitness coach reckons it’s far better to do a dynamic warm up before exercise, including jumping jacks, inchworms and hip openers, and a static one to help you cool down and relax afterwards, with toe touches and side bends.
Jessica told Women’s Health her clients see huge improvements when following her advice.
She said the biggest benefits of dynamic stretching are that it:
- Increases range of motion
- Reduces risk of injury
- Prepares your brain for movement
- Promotes blood flow
- Optimises joint health
- Improves overall performance
The top ten dynamic stretches to do when warming up, according to Jessica, with help from doctor of physical therapy Kendall Green and certified strength and conditioning specialist Joseph Bryan Lipana, are as follows…
1. Jumping jacks
Most people know what jumping jacks – or star jumps – are.
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But if it’s been a while, the move is done by standing with the arms and legs straight, then jumping the feet out and raising the arms.
This is then repeated again and again. The quicker you go, the more your heartrate will increase.
Lipana said it’s a great way to prepare your whole body for a workout as it targets your shoulders, thighs, calves and glutes.
To warm up your core, shoulders and chest, try an inchworm, Jessica said.
Start standing and slowly roll down to touch the floor.
Keeping your legs as straight as possible, walk your hands out so you’re in a plank position, then slowly reverse back up. Repeat.
3. Lateral lunge with reach
With the legs wide, bend over and touch each foot with the opposite hand while the other arm is extended in the air.
Keep switching sides to open up the inner thigh and groin, and work back and obliques, according to Green.
4. High knees
One of Jessica’s favourite dynamic stretches is high knees.
You simply run on the spot, raising your knees to touch your hands at hip height.
She said this increases the core body temperature and heart rate, as well as warming up the core, quadriceps and hip flexor muscles.
5. Chair dips
Sit on the edge of a bench, chair or step and use your hands to support your weight.
Position your feet away from the bench and keep you legs straight.
With just your heels touching the floor, lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground, then push back up.
Green said: “The chair dips open up the front line of the body, specifically targeting the pecs, biceps, posterior deltoid, further promoting that lengthening of the front of the body to avoid that rounded shoulders slumped posture.”
6. Downward dog with toe taps
Green said another great way to prepare for exercise is to try toe taps while in downward dog.
In a plank position, lift yourself into an upside-down V pose then reach through and touch each toe with the opposite hand.
This lengthens the muscles on the back of the legs, she said.
7. Squat with heel raise
Instead of just squatting up and down, try adding a heel raise.
This loads the calves, which is particularly great to do before running, according to Green.
8. Reverse lunge with knee drive
Another move to test out before a run is the reverse lunge with a knee drive, Green said.
Standing upright with your feet together, take a large step back with your right foot.
Bend your knee and lower your hips so that both legs are at a 90 degree angle.
Push back up and take a small jump while lifting your right knee to chest height. Repeat on the other side.
9. T-Y-W arms
This stretch opens up muscles on the front of the body, including the pecs and biceps, while activating the shoulder blades and spine, Green said.
With your feet slightly apart, bend your knees, lean forward and move your arms into a ‘T’ shape, then a ‘Y’, then a ‘W’. Repeat.
10. Hip openers
Jessica said hip openers help prepare your body for any single leg movements and help prevent injury.
Simply stand and lift your right leg with the knee bent, and circle it in, up and around. Repeat on the other side.
Lipana said: “It’s especially important to perform dynamic stretches before activities or sports with a higher risk of injury (think CrossFit, heavy lifting, or sprinting).”
Jessica, founder of Vibrant Coast Physical Therapy & Wellness in Fullerton, California, added: “When weight lifting, your goal is to increase your strength and power through your functional range of motion, and dynamic stretching allows you to prepare for this as well as warm your body up to reduce the risk of injury.”
Dynamic vs. static stretching
Dynamic stretching refers to any stretch that is performed with movement.
This could be swinging, bouncing or extending the range of motion.
It is best done before physical activity, like running, circuit classes and tennis.
Examples include jumping jacks, inchworms and hip openers.
Static stretching is done without any movement and involves holding positions still for specific amounts of time.
It is done to decrease muscle stiffness and therefore usually follows a workout.
It is most successful when the muscles are relaxed.
Examples include toe touches, knee-to-chest and side bends.
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