Dynamic flexibility is the ability to move muscles and joints through their full range of motion during active movement.

Such flexibility helps your body reach its full movement potential during daily activities, sports, and exercise. This improves performance and reduces the risk of injury.

To increase your dynamic flexibility, warm up with exercises that combine stretching and controlled movements. The movements should mimic the activity you’re about to do.

For example, before playing soccer, you’ll want to warm up with leg circles to mimic kicking. By warming up with dynamic exercises, your body will move more effectively during your workout.

Before performing dynamic exercises, do 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio, such as jogging or swimming. This will prepare your muscles for a dynamic warmup.

When you do dynamic exercises, start with a small range of motion and gradually increase it with every rep.

1. Arm circles

This exercise is an excellent warmup for swimming, throwing, or upper-body weight training.

To do it:

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your arms to the sides at shoulder height, palms down.
  3. Make 10 to 20 circles with your arms.
  4. Repeat in the other direction.

2. Arm swings

Arm swings target the muscles in your upper body, including your shoulders and upper back.

To do it:

  1. Standing tall, raise your arms in front of you, parallel with the floor. Face your palms down.
  2. While walking forward, swing both your arms to the left until your right arm is against your chest.
  3. Continue walking. Swing both arms to the right.
  4. Repeat 10 times in each direction.

3. Shoulder rolls

Before swimming or throwing, do this stretch to prepare your shoulders.

To do it:

  1. Relax your arms at your sides.
  2. Rotate your shoulders forward 10 times.
  3. Repeat 10 times in the opposite direction.

4. Torso twists

Torso twists are great for increasing spinal mobility. They’ll get your back ready for swimming, running, and throwing.

To do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing forward.
  2. Bend your arms 90 degrees and place them by your sides.
  3. Rotate your torso to the left and right.
  4. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

5. Walking high kicks

Walking high kicks, or toy soldiers, stretch your hamstrings before running or kicking. They also strengthen your hip flexors and quadriceps.

To do it:

  1. Standing tall, kick one leg up and reach your opposite hand toward it, keeping your spine neutral.
  2. Lower your leg in front of you.
  3. Alternate sides while walking forward.
  4. Repeat 10 reps on each side.

6. Knee-to-chest

The lifting motion of the knee-to-chest uses full hip flexion and stretches the glutes.

To do it:

  1. Lift your knee toward your chest, keeping your spine neutral.
  2. Lower your leg in front of you. Alternate sides while walking forward.
  3. Repeat 10 reps on each side.

7. Butt kicks

This exercise helps to stretch your quads, which prepares your thighs for running.

To do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your arms at your sides, bending your elbows at 90 degrees.
  2. Lift one heel toward your butt, then lower your foot.
  3. Repeat with the other foot.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds while jogging forward.

8. Walking lunges

As you walk and lunge, your hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes will get a nice stretch.

To do it:

  1. Place your hands on your waist. Step forward into a lunge.
  2. Your front knee should be 90 degrees and over your ankle, and your back knee should be just above the floor.
  3. Push into your back foot, bringing it forward into a lunge.
  4. Repeat 10 reps on each side.

9. Leg circles

Leg circles warm up your glutes, thighs, and hips. They’re sometimes called hip circles.

To do it:

  1. Stand up tall and lift one leg to the side. Us a wall or counter for support.
  2. Circle your leg 20 times in both directions.
  3. Repeat with the other leg.

10. Ankle rolls

This exercise takes your ankles through their full range of motion, making it ideal before running, hiking, and cycling.

To do it:

  1. Stand up tall or sit down. Lift one leg.
  2. Circle your lifted foot 10 to 20 times in each direction.
  3. Flex and point your toes. You can also write the alphabet or your name.
  4. Repeat with your other foot.

11. Sumo side squats

Sumo side squats prepare your legs by actively stretching your groin muscles.

To do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing your toes forward.
  2. Lift your arms to shoulder height.
  3. With your right foot, step out wide to your right.
  4. Drop into a side lunge, extending your left leg and keeping your spine neutral.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Complete 10 reps on each side.

12. Crawl-out squats

For a full-body dynamic exercise, do crawl-out squats before cardio activity.

To do it:

  1. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat and place your hands on the ground, in between your feet.
  3. Move your hands forward and transition into a plank. Hold for several seconds.
  4. Crawl back into the squat. Stand up straight.
  5. Complete 10 reps.

During dynamic exercise, your muscles move and stretch at the same time. Depending on the move, a dynamic exercise can make your joints extend or rotate.

Dynamic stretches can also work your joints through side-to-side and full range of motion movements. This helps your joints and muscles move more freely during your workout.

Dynamic exercises have several benefits, including:

  • Warming up muscles. Dynamic stretching increases the temperature of your muscles, which helps them move to their full potential. It also promotes blood flow to ensure enough oxygen reaches your muscles.
  • Increasing nerve activity. Your nerves move muscles by sending electrical signals. By stretching dynamically, your nerves send the appropriate signals before your workout begins. This trains your nerves and muscles to work together more efficiently.
  • Using full range of motion. Many cardio workouts, like running and walking, use minimal ranges of motion. They’re also done in one plane of movement, since you’re moving straight ahead. Dynamic exercises involve more complete motions, which better engage your muscles.
  • Decreasing injury risk. Dynamic stretching increases joint and muscle mobility which may help prevent injury. In a recent study, dynamic hamstring exercises reduced passive stiffness and increased range of motion in the hamstrings. These factors are associated with a lower risk of hamstring injury, one of the most common exercise injuries.

The difference between dynamic and static stretching is movement. Dynamic stretches move the muscle that’s being stretched. Typically, each movement is held for only a second or two.

Static stretching involves extending your muscle until you feel tension, and holding it for 15 to 60 seconds. Unlike dynamic stretching, it doesn’t include fluid movement. Examples of static stretching include a butterfly stretch and hamstring stretch.

Static stretching may help lengthen muscle, which is ideal for achieving optimal flexibility.

Dynamic exercises move your muscles and joints through a large range of motion. These stretches involve continuous movement, which prepares your body for activity.

This enhances performance and decreases injury risk by improving blood flow to the muscles. To incorporate dynamic exercises into your warmup, choose stretches that simulate the activity you’re about to do.

Talk to your doctor before trying a new exercise. A personal trainer can also show you how to safely stretch and warm up before a workout.