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Here’s how to do it.
For the better part of a decade, researchers have been showing that dynamic stretching beats static stretching for pre-workout performance—research that began in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s when scientists started to notice that passive or static stretching prior to competition reduced power, force, and performance.
Rather than holding a stretch without moving, dynamic stretching is a set of active stretches and movements that awakens muscles and elevates your core temperature, thereby prepping your body for optimal performance. Think: leg swings, high knees, and butt kicks rather than hanging over and touching your toes.
“Actively moving your joints and muscles in a targeted way will improve range of motion, increase blood flow, and help you to use proper form,” explains Lisa Selby, a Baltimore, Maryland-based running coach. Research has also shown that it can enhance everything from strength and power to muscular endurance. Dynamic stretching warms up the muscles and tendons to ready them for action and assists them at handling greater loads. What’s more, dynamic moves relevant to your sport open up communication between your muscles and your nervous system for more efficient muscle recruitment.
Static stretches performed before a workout or race, on the other hand, can reduce the muscles’ elastic power and thereby, economy. When it comes exibility, you can have too much of a good thing before a workout or race, and for an athlete, when you fully stretch a muscle, you can reduce its ring power. Think of a rubber band that’s been stretched to the point of having little snap-back.
So if you haven’t tried a dynamic stretching routine yet, you should start—it could prove the special sauce needed for your next PR. All it takes is 10 minutes before your workout or race to get your muscles ready to rock.
Pre-Swim Dynamic Stretching Routine
Arm Circles: Put your arms straight out to your sides, and rotate forward 15 times and backward 15 times.
Arm Swings: Swing your arm upwards so your shoulder touches your ear and down through the full rotation until your hand brushes your hip. Repeat 15 times forward and backward with each arm.
Torso Twists: Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your elbows and bring your arms to shoulder height. Carefully rotate your torso back and forth 20 times.
Knee-To-Chest Walk: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. As you step forward, lift your left knee, and grab it with your left hand to pull the leg to your chest. Repeat with the right leg on the next step, and continue alternating over 15 meters.
Jumping Jacks: Stand with arms at your side, and jump up while raising your arms up and your legs out. Repeat 30 times.
Pre-Run And Bike Dynamic Stretching Routine
Frankenstein Walk: Extend your arms out in front of your body and march forward, alternating kicking your legs out in front of you. Continue for 15 meters.
Butt Kicks: As you jog forward, alternate kicking your backside with your heels. Continue for 15 meters.
Leg Swings: Stand and hold onto a wall or chair, first swinging one leg front to back and then sweeping the leg side to side across your body. Repeat 15 reps with both legs.
High Knees: As you jog forward, alternate lifting your knees and bringing your thighs parallel to the ground. Continue for 15 meters.
Backpedal: Run backwards, exaggerating your steps as your legs reach behind your body. Continue for 15 meters.