Make no mistake: Static stretching has its place in any athlete’s routine, but if you want to get the most out of each and every workout, make your stretches dynamic. This will prepare you physically and mentally for what you’re about to do, provide a measurable increase in performance and reduce your risk of injury.
“It really does get the muscles ready for the activity planned,” explains Louis Guarino, a men’s Physique competitor and NASM-certified corrective exercise and performance enhancement specialist who works with the Canada-based Lean Bodies Consulting training group. “The purpose is to increase the range of motion of the muscle around the joints without the loss of force production. With prolonged static stretching there’s decreased force production, but the more rapid changes in range with dynamic warm-up modalities can increase range of motion while also increasing force production.”
According to research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, dynamic stretching — which helps to raise core temperature and excite the nervous system — before training helps to improve strength, force production and flexibility compared to groups who use static stretching. Static stretching has a calming effect on the body, and has been proven to improve flexibility when used postworkout for at least 90 seconds per stretch.
Try the full-body plan outlined here next time you’re psyching yourself up to battle the iron. It’ll take only minutes to complete, and after a few weeks you should find your overall range of motion and performance improving.
Move, Don’t Stretch
Using a moderate tempo, perform 10 repetitions of each movement:
Push-Up Perform a full push-up to downward dog.
Broomstick Up-and-Over Hold a light stick or elastic band across the front of your hips with your arms fully extended, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your arms fairly straight, pull the stick over your head in an arc toward your glutes, then pull it back over your head and down in front of your hips for one rep.
Standing Arm Reach Bend at the waist so your legs are straight and your hands touch your toes (or the floor in front of your toes). Keeping your left hand on the floor and your right arm straight, swing your right arm out to the side until it’s perpendicular to the floor. Follow your hand with your eyes to get a good stretch through the ribcage and lats, then reverse the motion. Perform all 10 reps on one side, then switch.
Hip Stretch Get into lunge position with your back knee touching the floor. Keeping your upper body tall, push gently toward your front knee to stretch the psoas muscle on your rear leg. Perform all 10 reps on one side, then switch.
Side-to-Side Leg Swing Stand tall and grasp a sturdy object for support. Keeping your left leg straight, swing it across your body and back out to the side as high as you can. Perform 10 swings in each direction with each leg.
Front-To-Back Leg Swing Stand tall and grasp a sturdy object for support. Keeping your right leg straight, swing it in front of your body and back behind you as high as you can. Perform 10 swings in each direction with each leg.