Stretching in general is a controversial topic in the fitness industry. Should you stretch before a workout, or after? Do you even need to stretch at all? Will regular stretching - like some fitness buffs believe - actually make you more likely to get injured then less? All of these are legitimate questions which have been at the heart of something called "static" stretching for a very long time.
But we're not talking about static stretching today. We're talking about something new and exciting called dynamic stretching. This type of stretching is very different from regular stretching. Many personal trainers and other fitness experts believe that incorporating dynamic stretching into any workout routine is important for weight loss, health, and reducing injuries. So let's learn a little more about it!
Static stretching usually involves sitting or standing relatively still in a specific position which stretches any one or group of muscles. The goal of static stretching is simply to elongate the muscle to the point of discomfort in order to encourage and increase flexibility. Some old school fitness experts insist that static stretching is the most important thing you can do for preventing injuries. Others believe that static stretches can actually make you more prone to injury, not less. This is why static stretching can be problematic.
But there's not nearly as much ambiguity behind dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching combines the benefits of light aerobic activity with a less intense stretch on the muscles. Dynamic stretching requires brisk movements that encourage blood flow into your muscles. It's a great way to get your body warmed up while gently improving flexibility. But there are many more benefits than that for people who perform dynamic stretching exercises on a regular basis.
Warming up before a workout is a very effective way of preventing injury from exercise. The more strenuous your workout, the more true this is. It's also important to warm up your muscles before workouts because it gives you more energy to push through. If you get a little blood flowing first, you'll send a rush of nutrients such as amino acids and glucose straight into your muscles where and when you need them most. That way, you'll have the fuel you need to get through your workout and the nutrients you need to repair your muscles afterward ready and waiting to go.
We're not talking about warming up your muscles in a figurative sense, either. Dynamic stretching actually raises your body temperature slightly before you start working out. In this way, dynamic stretching helps improve flexibility of your muscles, joints, and connective tissues without the discomfort of static stretching. This both prevents injuries in the short-term before each workout, and also improves flexibility over the long term without the discomfort you get from regular, static stretching.
Now that you know what dynamic stretching is and how good it is for you, it's time to start incorporating them into your workouts. Feel free to start here with our suggestions below. And if you want more, we strongly encourage you to google more information on the internet for better, expert-level dynamic stretching workouts:
Set four: arm circles - Here's a sneaky way to stretch out and improve flexibility in your shoulders. We say "sneaky" because it doesn't feel like you're stretching anything at all (but you definitely are!). Hold your arms out at a 90 degree angle from your torso, palms facing the floor. Rotate your arms in a clockwise motion forward slowly, making small circles in the air. You can gradually speed up a little as you make the circle bigger and bigger - but it's not a race, so don't get carried away with it. Do this for 10 to 15 seconds, then reposition yourself and start over from the beginning, this time moving your arms in a counterclockwise motion for another 10 to 15 seconds.
Dynamic stretching is great; but it's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an effective weight loss or maintenance fitness routine. Remember that if you're feeling winded are you're sweating very hard during a dynamic stretching warm-up, you may be working a little too hard. Try slowing down or performing fewer reps until you're feeling warm and your heart is beating a little faster than it would sitting or standing. That's the sweet spot you want to hit with your dynamic stretching routine. Once you master that, come back and check Quick Vita for even more fantastic fitness and exercise advice!