Over the past several years, there has been a great deal of controversy over whether to stretch before beginning a workout. Many fitness experts believe that warming up the muscles before a workout has been shown to decrease exercise related injuries. There is another school of thought that rules out stretching all together. Recently, however, dynamic stretching has been seen as the better alternative to static stretching (holding a stretch for a given number of seconds) or not stretching at all. Fitness expert, Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT, maintains that dynamic stretching before a workout is best. According to Ms. Matthews, “Dynamic stretching, which involves active range of motion movements that tend to resemble sport or movement-specific actions, lengthens the fascia (the connective tissue around the muscles), increases core body temperature and functionally prepares the body for the activity to come.” This also helps to maintain and increase flexibility around the joints. Chassidy Johnston, CPT and group fitness instructor takes her clients through a dynamic stretching routine before the workout rather than putting them on an elliptical machine or treadmill to warm up. She feels this gets their heart rate elevated as well as loosens up the muscles in preparation for the upcoming exercise routine.
Below are some of my favorite dynamic stretches. You can feel free to make up some of your own and incorporate them into your fitness routine:
Forward Lunge with Torso Twist
Stand with feet together. Bring right foot forward and lunge. Hold at the bottom and slightly twist to the left side. Repeat on opposite side. This works on balance and stability. Beginners can hold on to something for balance. Repeat 12 times.
Stand with feet together and hands extended over head. Bring right leg up and try to touch toes with left hand. Switch sides. This will stretch your glutes and hamstrings and begin to raise your heart rate since hands are moving from a high to lower level.
Side Lunge Huggers
Stand with feet together. Bring right leg out to the side with toes facing forward. Squat down while keeping your chest up. Open arms to the side and close them around your chest (like you are hugging yourself). Switch sides. This movement will stretch the inner thigh, chest, and back, as well as raise your heart rate. Repeat 10 times per side.
These are just a few examples of effective dynamic stretches. Before your next workout or physical activity, try some of these dynamic stretches to warm you up and loosen your muscles. Remember, you should never feel pain from any kind of stretching. Pain is your body’s way of warning you that you are going too far. Slowly ease up the tension and find a comfortable position to get the most out of your dynamic stretch. Stay tuned for more workout tips from fitness expert and bodybuilder Angeles Burke.