Everyone knows that good a stretch before and after a workout can go a long way to reduce injury and ensure that you can keep active throughout the week without being sidelined with preventable aches and pains. While many subscribe to the misconception that stretching carves time off your total workout time, you should really look at stretching as a part of your total workout, not just a supplement to it.
Why Every Workout Should Start with a Stretch
You should begin all workouts with dynamic stretching. During dynamic stretching, you’re in constant motion, and your body prepares for the activities ahead while warming up in the process. Think of it as a precursor to the types of exercises you will be performing in the gym each day. For example, if it’s leg day, you’ll want to stretch your quads, calves, and glutes by mimicking the movements and exercises of your actual workout without the weights.
The key is to keep moving. While you’re getting a mild cardio workout in the process, you’re also prepping those same muscles for the exercises and the added weight to come. Dynamic stretching is practiced by athletes of all stripes—from amateur flag-footballers and weekend warriors to professional athletes and Olympians—who understand the benefits of a dynamic stretching routine.
Start with some basic dynamic stretching moves and go from there based on your comfort and agility levels.
Why Dynamic Stretching? Why Now?
If you think back to middle school gym class, you probably remember being asked to touch your toes and hold it for 10 or more seconds. In fact, for decades, this is what we were told to do—all the time. Static stretching was the most popular type of warm-up for awkward teens, amateur sports aficionados, and professional athletes alike. With time and education, it’s become clear, however, that dynamic stretching is the ideal type of warm-up routine.
The reasons for this are many, but here are just a few: Dynamic stretching improves your range of motion and activates muscles you will actually use during a workout. It also has the effect of prepping your body for what’s ahead. Instead of just jumping into a pick-up basketball game, if you stretch those muscles beforehand by using the same motions as jump shots and hook shots, you’ll perform better on the court. Since you’re moving as you stretch, this challenges you to balance yourself and this coordination can also help your overall performance.
Tips for Successful Dynamic Stretching
If you’re new to dynamic stretching, feel free to use an assist. Hold onto a weight bench, a pole, a wall, or whatever will make your movements and your dynamic stretching warm-up easier. As your body gets used to dynamic stretching you can lose the stabilizers and rely on your body’s innate strength.
Remember, a comprehensive, warm-up can prepare your body for all types of sports and exercise. Trust us, take the time and just do it—your body will be forever grateful.