Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. They can be used to help warm up your body before exercising.

Dynamic stretches can be functional and mimic the movement of the activity or sport you’re about to perform. For example, a swimmer may circle their arms before getting into the water.

Dynamic stretches can also be a series of movements to get the body moving before any type of exercise. Some examples include trunk twists, walking lunges, or leg swings against a wall.

Dynamic stretches are different than static stretches.

Dynamic stretches are meant to get the body moving. The stretches aren’t held for any length of time. Dynamic stretches include movement, such as lunges with a torso twist.

Static stretches, on the other hand, are where muscles are extended and held for a period of time. Some examples of static stretches include a triceps stretch or the butterfly stretch.

Dynamic stretching can be used before the start of any exercise routine. It may help warm up your body or get your muscles moving and ready to work. Some examples that may benefit from dynamic stretches include:

  • Before sports or athletics. Studies show that dynamic stretches may be beneficial for athletes who will be running or jumping, including basketball players, soccer players, and sprinters.
  • Before weightlifting. According to research, dynamic stretching may help with leg extension power and improve performance, compared to static stretching or no stretching.
  • Before cardiovascular exercise. Whether you’ll be running, in boot camp, or swimming, dynamic exercises can get your muscles warmed up and ready, which may improve performance and reduce risk for injury.

Dynamic stretches are an excellent way to warm up before exercising. A sample dynamic stretching routine may involve the following moves.

Hip circles

  1. Stand on one leg, holding on to a countertop or wall for support.
  2. Gently swing your other leg in small circles out to the side.
  3. Perform 20 circles then switch legs.
  4. Work up to larger circles as you become more flexible.

Lunge with a twist

  1. Lunge forward with your right leg, keeping your knee directly over your ankle and not extending it farther than your ankle.
  2. Reach overhead with your left arm and bend your torso toward the right side.
  3. Bring your right leg back to return to an upright standing position. Lunge forward with your left leg.
  4. Repeat five times on each leg.

Arm circles

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold arms out to the side at shoulder height.
  2. Circle around your arms slowly, starting with small circles, working up to larger circles. Perform 20 circles.
  3. Reverse direction of the circles and perform 20 more.

When to warm up before your warmup

If you’ve been sitting or feel very stiff, you may also want to start with 5 to 10 minutes of light jogging or cycling to warm up. You can also try foam rolling before starting your dynamic stretches to release tightness.

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Runners can benefit from dynamic stretches as a warmup. Some recommended stretches for runners are below.

Large arm circles

  1. Stand upright with your arms extended out to your side.
  2. Start to make large circles.
  3. Perform 5–10 reps with your arms swinging forward.
  4. Repeat with arms swinging backward.

Leg pendulum

  1. Start to swing one leg back and forth while balancing on the other. You can hold onto a wall if needed.
  2. Swing forward and backward 5–10 times.
  3. Bring that leg down and repeat with the other leg, swinging 5–10 times.
  4. You can then face the wall and swing your legs from side-to-side, if desired.

Jog to quad stretch

  1. Start by jogging in place for 2–3 seconds.
  2. Reach behind one leg to grab hold of one foot to stretch out the quad. Hold for 2–3 seconds.
  3. Start to jog again for 2–3 seconds.
  4. Repeat stretch with the other leg.
  5. Repeat 5–10 times.

Dynamic stretching can be effective before working out your upper body, such as before weightlifting. Try out the following dynamic stretches.

Arm swings

  1. Stand forward with your arms extended at shoulder-height out in front of you, palms facing down.
  2. Walk forward as you swing both arms to the right, with your left arm reaching in front of your chest and your right arm reaching out to the side. As you swing your arms, remember to keep your torso facing straight and only turn your shoulder joints.
  3. Reverse direction of the swing to the opposite side as you keep walking.
  4. Repeat 5 times on each side.

Spinal rotations

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bring your arms out to the side at shoulder height.
  2. Keep your torso still and slowly start to rotate your body back and forth from right to left.
  3. Repeat 5–10 times.

While dynamic stretching is important for warming up, it isn’t necessary to perform dynamic stretches as a cooldown. Dynamic stretches bring up your core temperature. During a cooldown, the goal is to lower your temperature.

Instead, try static stretches such as a quadriceps stretch, cobra stretch, or hamstring stretch.

Never perform dynamic stretches if you’re injured, unless your doctor or physical therapist recommends them.

Adults over 65 should also take care when performing dynamic stretches. Static stretches may be more beneficial.

Static stretching may be more beneficial for exercises requiring flexibility, including gymnastics, ballet, and yoga.

The next time you exercise or play sports, try adding dynamic stretches to your warmup. You may find your body feels more energized, stretched out, and ready to power you through your workout. Just remember, always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.