Dynamic and Static Stretching Exercises

We have been told stretching is good for us! It keeps us flexible, improves our mobility, prevents injuries. Just a recap of previous post, there are 2 types of most common stretching exercises. Static stretching and dynamic stretching. I shed some light on the topic of what kind of stretching, when to do it and why are they important in my last post. Need a refresher? Head over there to read the info. In today’s post I am showing you few examples of dynamic and static stretching exercises that are great to add to your workout routine.

Dynamic meaning active, energetic. It is exactly what the name suggests- stretching using movement. It involves usually more than one muscle group. It improves blood flow to the muscles, gets them ready for exercise/activity and improves the muscle performance. These dynamic stretching exercises also mildly elevates your heart rate. And those are the reasons they should be part of your warm up session.

  1. Butt Kickers– Stretches Quadriceps muscles (front thighs). Fast, explosive contractions of hamstrings and gluts (back thighs and butt).

Stand up straight with legs slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knee and try to touch the heel to your buttock. Repeat on other side. Add opposite arm movement like running action to get some upper body stretching. High impact version- Hop side to side as you keep switching from one side to other.

2. Straight leg kicks– Stretches Hamstrings, calves, shoulder/ upper back muscles. Fires up Quadriceps, hip flexors, oblique muscles of trunk.

Stand up with feet hip width apart. Stretch your right arm in front at shoulder level. Kick your left leg up straight trying to touch the left hand. Repeat on other side. 10 times each side. You do not have to aim that high if you are a beginner, specially with tight hamstrings.

3. Side Lunge Stretch– Stretches Inner thigh and groin muscles. Fires up Quadriceps and Gluts and Hip abductors (outer Thighs).

Stand upright, with both feet facing forward, double shoulder-width apart. Lunge to the right, keeping left knee straight. Hands can be clasped in front or placed on your thighs to maintain a straight back. Be careful not to move the right knee farther forwards than the toes. Straighten up and press off the right foot back to standing position. Repeat on the other side, then move side to side with the lunges 5-10 times

5. Lunge walk twist– Stretches Hip flexors, trunk muscles. Fires up Quadriceps, gluts, calf muscles and core muscles.

Step into lunge position with back knee 1 inch off the ground and slightly bent. Rotate torso toward the front knee that should be bent 90 degrees. Do not allow the front knee to go over the front toes. Repeat with other leg. The drill moves forward in a walking motion. Repeat 5-10 times each side or for total 30 seconds.

6. Cross Arm Stretch– Stretches chest and shoulder muscles.

Cross your arms in front and quickly bring them as far back as you can. Repeat 10 times or 30-45 seconds.

A great variation is to combine Cross Arm stretches with jumping jacks.

7. Opposite Arm Circles– Stretches shoulder and upper back muscles throughout the range.

Stand straight with feet shoulder width wide. Start with both arms overhead. Rotate one arm forward making big circles, while other arm in reverse direction in circular motion. Switch directions after 5 repetitions.

Since the main goals of dynamic stretching are to improve dynamic range of motion required in exercises/movements and to prepare our body for exercise, we should perform dynamic stretching prior to every workout. And when I say Workout, it includes every form of exercise- weight training, recreational sports, competitive sports, marathon running, recreational dance class or high intensity dance workouts. Choose the stretches that are specific to the activity/exercise. Example, If you plan to do lower body weight training, focus on dynamic leg stretches. You can surely perform a whole body dynamic stretching routine if you like.

Static stretching is done at the end of your workout. It involves holding a position of stretch for 30 seconds without movement. This allows your muscles to loosen up, while increasing flexibility and range of motion. If you are wondering why 30 seconds? Head over to the last post to find out what evidences suggest.

Oh Let me emphasize, 30 seconds by the clock. If you are counting, go to 60-90 counts. Most therapists will agree with me, we all have had patients who can count 30 in 10-15 seconds. Yeah, that’s not a long enough stretch.

There are million ways to stretch a muscle. Well not literally!! Here are some of my favorites and go-to stretches.

  1. Quadriceps Stretch– stretches the front of thighs
Lie on your stomach and place a towel or belt around your foot. Bend your knee by pulling on the towel until you feel a stretch. Or Hold the foot with your hand. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Do not arch your back during the stretch. You can put a pillow under your hips for more comfort.
  • Grab the top of one ankle with one hand to pull foot towards buttock until you feel a gentle stretch on the front of the thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Stand in front of a chair or a wall and hold on to it with one hand if needed for balance.

2. Hamstrings Stretch– Stretches Back of the thighs.

Lie on your back and place a long strap around your forefoot, holding the ends with your hands. Lift your leg straight up, keeping your knee straight, and pulling gently on the strap with your hands until you feel a gentle stretch behind the thigh and calf. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. You can bend the other knee if you have any back discomfort.

Another variation, Bend forward from your waist as far as possible. Try to slowly slide your hands forward as you go deeper in the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. You can stretch one leg at a time if you like. The other leg stays in figure 4 position.

3. Piriformis Stretch– Stretches the buttock muscle.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, place one foot over the opposite knee.
  • Grab the leg that is on the ground with your hands and pull it toward you until you feel a gentle stretch.
  • Maintain the position and relax. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Push on your knee to increase the stretch.
  • Hook a towel around your leg if you have trouble reaching the your leg.

4. Calf stretch

  • Stand and place both hands on a wall/Chair.
  • Place one leg behind the other and lean your body forward without bending the back knee until you feel a stretch in your back calf.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

No vigorous bouncing motions at the end range while holding a stretch or trying to stretch more. Be gentle. Discomfort in the muscle group you are stretching is expected, but no pain.

Neck, Chest and shoulder stretches are all listed in Neck Stiffness Post, which you can find right here. These are some of the most important stretches to perform throughout the day.

I know it’s very tempting to skip stretching after a workout. But try not to! It’s the best time to stretch since your muscles are already warm. Static stretching in general improves overall flexibility which prevents injuries and pain. So if not after a workout, these static stretching exercises can be done at a later time in any room. Netflix and Stretch! and most important Just Breathe and Relax!

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