For those interested in optimizing a fitness routine or training session, dynamic stretching can help contribute to a solution. More trainers and coaches are looking at this kind of stretching regimen to prepare clients and athletes for performance-intensive contact sports and other activities. Most fitness experts agree that stretching in some form is vital to preparing muscle groups for the heavy work they do in athletic performance. The discussion over which kinds of stretches to pursue prior to training and in the interim is part of looking at best practices for turning out future athletes or helping novices work out at home.
What Is Dynamic Stretching?
Trainers and experts commonly define dynamic stretching as a kind of stretch that uses the momentum of a movement to complete its extension of the muscle groups. Arm circles, leg raises with momentum and walking lunges are all common examples of dynamic stretching. A dynamic stretch takes a specific movement and makes it a stretching activity, either by deliberate extension of the limb and corresponding muscle groups, or through other precise ranges of motion.
The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
The main benefit of using dynamic stretching just before a sporting event or fitness routine is that, because dynamic stretches use motions similar to those that an athlete undertakes, they effectively simulate a performance experience. For example, doing kicking stretches before soccer or a similar sport will effectively warm up the limbs and body to anticipate specific challenges. The same applies to upper body motions such as circular arm stretching.
Alternatives: Static and Ballistic Stretching
A main alternative to dynamic stretching is static stretching. Some fitness experts contend that static stretching is, overall, the best way to increase range of motion. However, because static stretching doesn't use the same momentum that dynamic stretches rely on, it's not the same in simulating sports performance. This is one reason why dynamic stretching has taken on such a primary role in so many training manuals and work books. Many trainers and coaches want their clients to take advantage of the blend of mental and physical preparation that dynamic stretching provides.
Another alternative to dynamic stretching goes in the other direction. Ballistic stretching is a kind of stretch that some participants use to get even more explosive muscle work out of an activity. Ballistic stretching includes motions accompanied by jerky, bouncing movements. For example, a limb is extended to its limit and reinforced with a kind of "spring-loaded" motion. Ballistic stretching, though often effective, has been associated with a high risk of injury, which is why dynamic stretching is a good choice for those who want to use stretching as an effective warm-up just before an event or training session.
Although some debate what kinds of stretches are best just prior to training, most would agree that either dynamic stretching or static stretching on a periodic basis do the work of preparing the body for what it goes through in intense recreational or athletic activity.