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5 Dynamic Stretching Exercises for Fitness and Strength Athletes

Use these exercises to warm up properly and hit your lifts.

Dynamic stretching exercises are a form of active movement that takes you through a whole range of motion to reach a stretch. They prepare you for a sporting activity by activating your muscles and ligaments.

Unlike static stretching, which requires you to hold you body at the end position of a stretch, dynamic stretching is, as the name described it, a movement-based type of stretching.

A dynamic stretching exercise that is relevant to the activity you’re about to do activates the neuromuscular pathways required for your activity – which simply means it gets your body ready to perform at its best in the sport you’re about to do.

Dynamic stretching is good for:

  • Increasing your body’s core temperature
  • Preparing you to handle the intensity of the workout
  • Improving mobility
  • Enhancing flexibility
  • Helping you stay injury free (through the above two benefits)

Dynamic stretching exercises move you through the entire range of motion of an exercise or position and push you a little bit, instead of holding you at the extreme end of a position or stretch.

Stretching should compliment your sport, so if flexibility is something you need in your upcoming activity – think ankle mobility for an overhead lift or shoulder mobility for a muscle up or handstand push-up – then stretching before your workout can set you up for success.

“Generally, you want to stretch in a warm-up to establish safe, effective range of motion for the ensuing activity,” reads the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide.

This is because a limited range of motion can cause bad technique and ultimately lead to injuries. Think about the movement requirements for your sport and use stretching to prepare for them.

In CrossFit for example, possessing a full range of motion in your joins is essential because athletes are required to keep control of internal and external loads – by performing weightlifting and gymnastics exercises – and do so with the right technique to prevent injuries.

Lauren-Fisher-StretchingSource: Puori

Benefits of dynamic stretching exercises

Without good mobility it becomes impossible to perform certain movements correctly. In turn, this leads to the inability to perform exercises efficiently, expending more energy than necessary, and exposing yourself to bad positions that could lead to injury.

A thruster, for example, is extremely difficult if you can’t squat properly, rack properly and struggle with overhead mobility.

Dynamic stretching exercises are beneficial to perform before CrossFit workouts because they:

  • Activate the neuromuscular pathways required to perform movements
  • Increase your range of movement gradually
  • Increase blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, tendons and ligaments before they are taxed by your workout

Pre-activity dynamic movements are a great way to get ready for exercise and, in some instances, can be more appropriate than static stretches. A 2006 study found that a dynamic warmup improved power and agility performance over a static warmup [1], while a 2011 study concluded that “Athletes in sports requiring lower-extremity power should use DS [dynamic stretching] techniques in warm-up to enhance flexibility while improving performance.” [2]

In short: dynamic stretching exercises progressively get your muscles and joints used to the ranges of motion and movement patterns you’ll encounter during your workout, helping you prepare for it and perform better.

For this very reason, your dynamic warm-up should be specific to the activity you’re about to perform. Have a look at the following dynamic stretching exercises and include them in your training where appropriate.

5 Dynamic Stretching Exercises for CrossFit and Strength Sports

Dynamic stretching exercises are usually conformed of bodyweight movements incorporating a certain degree of flexibility, strength and range of motion (the amount of movement around a specific joint or body part).

Include these in your warm-up routine.

1. Lunge walk and leg swing

These are great movements to open your hips and activate your hamstrings.

The lunge walk and leg swing can be helpful to perform before workouts that include:

  • Board Jumps
  • Squats
  • Walking Lunges
  • Box Jumps

How to do it: To perform this exercise start standing straight with your feet hip width apart. Kick your right foot forward and backward like a pendulum. Make sure you don’t arch your back too much and only go as high as feels comfortable – the warmer your muscles are the higher you’ll be able to go.

Once you’ve performed about three swings, use the forward momentum to do a big step, finishing in a lunge. Bring your feet back together and repeat the process with your left leg.

2. Outside lunge and twist

This is a great exercise to open the hips, chest and shoulders. Add this exercise into your warmup if your workout includes:

  • Any overhead lift (thrusters, overhead squat, snatches, jerks, presses)
  • Handstand Push-Ups
  • Handstand Walk
  • Pull-Ups or Muscle-Ups

How to do it: Start in a push up position and move one leg forward until your ankle is next to your wrist. Then, release the hand that’s next to your forward foot from the floor and twist upwards until your shoulders are aligned vertically.

For a deeper stretch, bring your arm back down and, instead of placing your hand back on the floor, continue lowering yourself down until your elbow touches the ground, rotating the opposite way as what you’ve just done.

Bring your feet back together and repeat with the other side of your body.

dynamic stretching exercises

3. The inch worm

This exercise will activate your shoulders, core, hamstrings and quads. The inch worm is a full body movement and therefore is great to maximise your overall readiness for a workout. It’s a good dynamic movement to perform before:

  • Deadlifts
  • Cleans
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Muscle-Ups

How to do it: Start by standing tall with your feet close together. Then, reach down to the ground maintaining your legs extended and start walking forward on your hands, ensuring your legs and back are straight. Keep your feet glued to the ground.

Keep walking your hands out as far as you can and then bring your feet to your hands by taking many little steps. Once your feet and hands are together again repeat the process.

4. Shoulder dislocates

Shoulder dislocates are a must-do exercise if you’re about to perform gymnastics movements or weightlifting, as the force and technique required for these exercises can place big stress on your shoulder joints.

Functional fitness, with is weightlifting and gymnastics movements, places a high emphasis on shoulder, elbow and wrist mobility. It is therefore important to target these areas and prepare them specifically for your Olympic lifts or gymnastics routine.

Perform shoulder dislocates before:

  • Cleans
  • Handstand Push-Ups and Handstand Walks
  • Bench Presses
  • Overhead Squats and Snatches

How to do it: Using either a PVC pipe or a resistance band, grab your preferred equipment piece and place your hands apart. The PVC pipe or resistance band should rest between your hips and your belly button.

Keeping your arms locked, move your hands overhead and back, so the PVC pipe or resistance band lies on your lower back. Bring your hands back up and in front of you, always keeping your arms extended.

If this is too hard, you can place your hands further apart.

5. Scorpion

The scorpion is a great exercise to activate your low back and hip flexors.

  • Devil Presses
  • Deadlifts
  • Front Squats
  • Good Mornings
  • Barbell, Kettlebell or Dumbbell Rows

How to do it: Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out to your sides, so your shoulders and wrists are on the same line. Then, kick your right foot towards your left arm as if you were trying to touch your left wrist with your ankle.

Keep your hips mostly grounded and move in a slow, controlled manner. This exercise should not hurt.

The better your mobility is, the easier CrossFit exercises will become. Enhance your mobility with these five dynamic stretching exercises.

Why can flexibility and mobility reduce injury risk?

Good flexibility will aid the lengthening of the muscles and ligaments, improving mobility in your joints.

Any workout that requires power, speed or places an external load on your body will probably benefit from a dynamic warm-up routine. This is because a light warm-up increases your core temperature and activates your muscles for the upcoming activities.

Dynamic stretches also promote fluid movement during athletic performance.

Injuries can happen when you load your body before it’s ready or perform a taxing movement or exercise too suddenly. This is more prevalent with high power or intensity workouts, such as trying to establish your one-rep max or set a new 100m personal best.

Stretching should be based on your individual needs and the physical demands placed by your preferred sport. Dynamic stretching exercises will aid your flexibility before a workout and help you perform, so long as each exercise has a purpose.

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