The sports and fitness industry has immensely evolved over the last two decades. The emphasis is not just on training or playing but also factors in what you do before and after. One such area that has evolved over the years is the concept of dynamic stretches.
In simple words, dynamic stretches increase an athlete’s range of motion by lengthening and strengthening the muscles.
Using momentum, the soft tissues are taken to their full length and as they eccentrically contract, the muscles and tendons exert a force in the lengthened position.
They are very beneficial when incorporated as a part of the warm-up as they improve performance, balance and coordination.
Some of the benefits of dynamic stretches include:
- Reduced risk of injury
- Increased blood flow
- Faster muscle contraction and relaxation
- Increased force development and reaction time
- Better muscle strength and power
- Improves physiological performance
- Improved balance
Examples of dynamic stretches and when to do them:
Dynamic stretches are the most effective when performed before a sporting activity or workout. These stretches include specific movements catering to a sport or a workout and enhance the upcoming performance. A simple example can be walking on your heels and toes for 20 seconds each to stretch out the calf muscles.
For the lower body: 10-15 repetitions
- Calf marches: Get into a downward dog position and keeping your legs straight and knees soft, start marching. Try and touch the floor with the heel of your foot.
- Standing quad and hamstring stretch: Standing on both feet, bend one leg and pull it back and bend your upper body, Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and repeat on the other leg. This is a good dynamic stretch for your quads and hamstrings.
- Open and close the gate: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Raise the right knee up to hip level. Rotate it externally away from your body and plant your feet down. Similarly bring it back in front by rotating it internally and put your feet down. Repeat on the left side. This is a good warm-up for the groin muscles.
- Glute bridges: Lie flat on the back and bend your knees. With the palms to either side of the body, bring your hips all the way up and squeeze your glutes. Bring it back to the floor and repeat.
For the upper body: 10-15 repetitions:
- Superman stretch: Lie down on your stomach and extend your hands and legs fully. With the forehead facing the floor lift the shoulders and legs off the floor. Get back to the starting position and repeat
- Side bending: Stand shoulder-width apart with hands extended overhead, start bending side to side through your trunk.
- Arm circles: Move your arms in slow circular motions clockwise and counter-clockwise.
- Side head tilts: With hands extended straight and close to either side of the body, tilt your head to one side.
These were some of the examples of dynamic stretches but not all of them suffice or are relevant. The sport in question plays a very important role in structuring these stretches.
The more specific they are to the upcoming physical activity, the more beneficial. The next time you play a sport or hit the gym, take out time for some dynamic stretches to get more out of your game/workout.
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