Dynamic stretching is the use of movement to stretch muscles before a workout or athletic competition. It relies on momentum to engage the muscles, rather than holding a stretch at a standstill. These stretches are generally used to prevent muscle strain and to safely allow for swift, powerful movements by athletes.
Athletes who play sports that require sudden movements from a standstill, such as track runners or baseball players, tend to be the most benefited by dynamic stretching. These stretching routines are usually customized for particular sports to mimic movements specific to each individual sport. Movements are designed to prepare the muscles for sudden movements by slightly raising the body temperature. The warmer body temperature usually makes the body better able to handle sudden movement than a cooler, unprepared body.
Dynamic stretching is most often used just before extensive sports-related workouts or competitions. The stretching routines are thought to have both short- and long-term effects. By stretching out muscles through movements similar to ones that occur during athletic competition, the body may become used to the movements and less likely to become injured. Some athletic trainers promote the use of these stretches as a means to prepare the body for the optimal athletic performance over time, by making the body become familiar with the movements. As an athlete’s body gets used to the movements, it may not take as much effort to perform the movements during competition and come more naturally.
There are several types of stretching routines and many are specialized for individual sports or athletes. A common example of a dynamic stretch for the lower body involves alternately raising the knees as high as possible while walking in place. This type of stretch can help prepare leg and back muscles for sprinting activities. A type of dynamic stretch for the upper body involves holding the arms out to the sides of the body and continuously swinging them in circles for approximately 30 seconds to stretch out arms, shoulder, and lower back muscles for upper body movement like throwing or swinging during competition.
Dynamic stretches are often confused with another type of stretching routines used by athletic trainers called static stretching. Static stretching, or holding a particular stretch for a short period, has also been commonly used for athletic warm-up routines. Common examples of static stretching including bending over and touching the toes, or alternately stretching each arm diagonally across the body. Static stretching is thought to be not as effective as dynamic stretching at loosening muscles for swift movements, so it is generally not recommended to athletes prior to competition. It is prescribed more often after workouts to increase long-term flexibility.