9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers

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9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Dynamic stretches should be done before exercise to warm up muscles.PeopleImages/Getty Images
  • Dynamic stretches are stretches that move you through your full range of motion.
  • You should do dynamic stretches before working out and static stretches after exercise.
  • Benefits of dynamic stretching include improved flexibility, performance, and mobility.

Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that involves movement rather than holding the stretch in place. Here are some of the benefits of dynamic stretching, how it differs from static stretching, and an example warm-up routine.

What is dynamic stretching?

Related Article Module: 5 health benefits of stretching: Why it's so important and how to stretch properly, according to physical therapists

Dynamic stretching involves controlled motions that move parts of your body through their full range of motion. This movement promotes blood flow, preparing your muscles and ligaments for exercise, says Leigh-Ann Bramble, a doctor of physical therapy at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Benefits of dynamic stretching

  • Warms up muscles
  • Decreases stiffness
  • Improves flexibility
  • Increases range of motion
  • May improve performance
  • Helps prevent injury

Dynamic stretches are generally recommended before you exercise while static stretches are better post-workout.

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For example, a small 2011 study found that participants who performed dynamic stretches could jump higher than those who did static or no stretching beforehand. This study suggests that dynamic stretches could be especially helpful for athletes who use explosive power from the lower body, such as sprinters.

Additionally, a small 2019 study found dynamic stretching increased flexibility and decreased stiffness in the hamstrings, as well as improved range of motion in the knee.

Dynamic stretching is considered generally safe. But, because it requires active movement and more energy than simply holding a stretch, it may contribute to fatigue, which competitive athletes might want to minimize before a competition.

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Dynamic stretching vs. static stretching

Static stretchingDynamic stretching
Holding a stretch for a certain length of timeMoving through the full range of motion without holding in place
Best after exerciseBest before exercise
Lengthens muscles Improves blood flow and warms up muscles

Here are nine dynamic stretches to incorporate into your warm-up routine. Before each workout, spend about a minute moving through each stretch - on both sides - for a total of 10 to 15 minutes, says Bramble.

1. Torso twist

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
The movement should be controlled and not forced.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet facing forward, as wide as your shoulders.
  2. Hold your arms by your sides, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Twist your torso from one side to the other, moving through your trunk.

Muscles targeted: Obliques and core. This exercise warms up your core and helps keep your spine mobile and flexible.

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2. Walking lunges

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Engage your abdominal muscles throughout this exercise to avoid arching your back.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your hands on your waist.
  2. Take a step forward and lunge down, keeping your front knee in line with your hip and ankle.
  3. Lower your back knee toward the floor without touching it down. Do not allow your front knee to go past your front toes.
  4. Push off your back leg, and come back to a standing position.

Muscles targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

3. Leg swings

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Engage your abdominal muscles to prevent your back from arching.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

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  1. Stand on one leg.
  2. Swing the other leg in front of you and behind you, using a slow, controlled motion.
  3. Move back and forth through your full range of motion.

Muscles targeted: Quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

4. Calf raises

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
For balance, hold onto a chair or wall if necessary.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Lift up onto your tiptoes.
  3. Lower back down.

Muscles targeted: Gastrocnemius (a muscle in the calf)

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5. Standing hip circles

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Hold onto a chair or rail for balance.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

  1. Lift your knee up toward your chest.
  2. Rotate it out to the side and down to the ground, somewhat like a breaststroke kick.

Muscles targeted: Glutes and hip rotators.

6. Squats

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Engage your abdominal muscles to prevent your back from arching.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

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  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Your arms can be straight out in front of you at shoulder height or clasped together in front of your chest.
  2. Squat down, making sure your knees are in line with your toes as you lower down.
  3. Stand back up.

Muscles targeted: Glutes and quads.

7. Arm circles

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Use controlled movements.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

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  1. Keeping your arms straight, move both arms in full circles.
  2. Rotate your arms forward and then backward.​

Muscles targeted: Deltoids and other shoulder muscles.

8. Shoulder rolls

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Be sure to make circles in both directions.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

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  1. Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears.
  2. Move your shoulders backward, and then down toward the floor, in circles.
  3. Do forward circles and then backward circles.

Muscles targeted: Trapezius.

9. Arm criss-cross

9 of the best dynamic stretches to warm up with before a workout, according to personal trainers
Make sure to switch which arm is on top after each cross.Crystal Cox/Insider

How to do it:

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  1. Wrap your arms around your trunk, so that your fingers are touching the lat on the opposite side.
  2. Open your arms all the way out, so that your chest opens, through the full range of motion.

Muscles targeted: Pectoral and back muscles (rhomboids and mid-traps).

Tips for dynamic stretching

  1. Start slow and easy. If you feel stiff, focus on smaller movements and then work up to the full range of motion. Remember, speed is not the goal, Bramble says. You want controlled movements.
  2. Listen to your body. You may want to adjust the stretches based on how you feel. For example, if your back feels more stiff than usual, add extra torso twists, says Bramble.
  3. No pain. Neither static nor dynamic stretching should be painful, Bushman says. If it hurts to do a dynamic stretch, you may be pushing it too far.

Insider's takeaway

Dynamic stretching is stretching that encourages you to use your full range of motion which can help you warm up before exercise and improve overall flexibility. You also tend to lose flexibility as you age, Bushman says. Dynamic stretching can help combat this.

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