Fitness professionals and enthusiasts like to debate the appropriate time for a decent stretch. Whether it be before or after you exercise, both groups will agree that a proper warm-up is essential. And many fitness professionals will tell you that dynamic stretching (rather than static stretching) is an appropriate way to get warmed up. According to Webster, to be "dynamic" is to display "energy or effective action," or to be "vigorously active or forceful." And that's exactly what dynamic stretching is. It produces muscle contractions throughout a specific range of motion. In other words, when you stretch dynamically, you move the muscles that you intend to use in order to get them ready for whatever action lies ahead.
Let's take a look at how this works by discussing it in relationship to running. Instead of propping your leg up on a bench and leaning forward or grabbing your foot and pulling it back toward your glutes (both of which are static stretches), you might consider executing a few walking lunges instead. Jogging in place, rear glute kicks and forward leg lifts would also be good dynamic stretches. And let's not forget about your upper body—consider rolling your shoulders a bit and swinging your arms toward the front and back of your body as you would during your run. Not only will these dynamic movements loosen up your muscles, they'll also loosen up your joints. And that's never a bad thing.
Dynamic stretches, as you've probably noticed from the above examples, mimic your intended activity. Ever see golfers or baseball players take practice swings? Dynamic stretching. Ever see basketball players bounce a ball between their legs before a game? Dynamic stretching. Going back to running for a minute, if you've ever participated in a race, you've probably seen the "overachievers" running before the real run begins. That's dynamic stretching, too.
Give it a try next time you need to warm up for something, but don't forget about all of those static stretches you've been doing. Keep those in your back pocket, you'll need them after your workout to create a nice cool-down routine.
Question: How do you stretch dynamically? Do you have a favorite static stretch?