Updated: Feb 17
Dynamic stretches can help prevent injuries and improve performance, but they also have a few disadvantages. In this article I discuss, the benefits of dynamics stretches, how to avoid common pitfalls, and share example exercises of dynamic stretches for your legs. Remember, if you need more help with an injury, you're welcome to consult one of our physios online via video call.
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The benefits of dynamic (or active) stretching
Dynamic stretches use repetitive movements that take your muscle and joints through their full range of movement. It involves actively contracting your muscles throughout the movement as opposed to passive stretching, where you just relax into the position.
Research has shown that you can improve your sports performance and help prevent injuries when you include dynamic stretches in your warm-up routine. This is because dynamic stretching activates your nervous system and muscles, improves your joint movement and muscle flexibility, as well as your balance and control.
When it comes to flexibility, dynamic stretches are not quite as effective as static stretches. However, static stretches have been shown to sometimes switch muscles off (if held for longer than 45 sec), which is not ideal if you're about to compete! This is where dynamic stretches can come to the rescue.
Performing a set of dynamic stretches after static stretches can wake your muscles back up, thereby ensuring that there isn't any negative effect on your performance (reference, reference, & reference). If having good flexibility is important for your sport (e.g. gymnastics) and you have to do static stretches in your warm-ups, I would suggest that you hold the static stretches for less than 45 seconds and follow it up with a good set of dynamic stretches and a sports specific warm-up.
Dynamic stretching exercise examples for legs
1. Free squats
Mobilises hip, knee, and ankle joints
Activates quads and glutes
2. Lunge dips
Mobilises hips and knees
Stretches hip flexors and glutes
Activates quads and glutes
Activates back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings
Stretches hip flexors
4. Good mornings or Romanian deadlifts
Activates hamstrings and glutes
5. Heel lifts + drops over step
Stretches your calf muscles
Mobilises your ankle joints
Activates your calf muscles
6. Leg swings forward and back
Stretches hamstrings and hip flexors
Mobilises your sciatic nerve and hip joint
Activates your hip flexors and glutes
7. Leg swings side-to-side
Stretches your inner thigh muscles (adductors) and outer glutes
Mobilises your hip joint
Activates your inner thigh muscles and outer glutes
Drawbacks of dynamic stretches
Dynamic stretches can tire your muscles out and decrease your performance if you do too many repetitions. There are currently no clear guidelines on what actually constitutes “too many”. It may very well depend on your level of fitness.
As a guideline, I would suggest that if you feel out of breath or tired after your warm-up, you have likely done too much.
What it doesn’t do
There is currently no evidence to suggest that dynamic stretches can decrease muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise.
How we can help
Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.
We're all UK Chartered Physiotherapists with Master’s Degrees related to Sports & Exercise Medicine. But at Sports Injury Physio we don't just value qualifications; all of us also have a wealth of experience working with athletes across a broad variety of sports, ranging from recreationally active people to professional athletes. You can meet the team here.
About the Author
Behm, David G., et al. “Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 41.1 (2015): 1-11.
Loughran, Martin, et al. “The effects of a combined static-dynamic stretching protocol on athletic performance in elite Gaelic footballers: A randomised controlled crossover trial.” Physical Therapy in Sport 25 (2017): 47-54.
Murphy, Justin R., et al. “Aerobic activity before and following short-duration static stretching improves range of motion and performance vs. a traditional warm-up.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 35.5 (2010): 679-690.
Simic, L., N. Sarabon, and Goran Markovic. “Does pre‐exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta‐analytical review.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 23.2 (2013): 131-148.