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Dynamic stretching: Benefits, pitfalls, and exercise examples for legs

Updated: Nov 22

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.

The benefits and drawbacks of dynamic stretching

In this article:

  1. The benefits of dynamic (or active) stretching

  2. Dynamic stretching exercise examples for legs

  3. Drawbacks of dynamic stretches

  4. What it doesn’t do

  5. How we can help

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

Benefits:

  • Mobilises hip, knee, and ankle joints

  • Activates quads and glutes

Dynamic stretching exercise 1: Free squat

2. Lunge dips

Benefits:

  • Mobilises hips and knees

  • Stretches hip flexors and glutes

  • Activates quads and glutes

Dynamic stretching exercise 2: Lunge dips

3. Bridges

Benefits:

  • Activates back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings

  • Stretches hip flexors

Dynamic stretching exercise 3: Bridges

4. Good mornings or Romanian deadlifts

Benefits:

  • Stretches hamstrings

  • Activates hamstrings and glutes

Dynamic stretching exercise 4: Good mornings or Romanian deadlifts

5. Heel lifts + drops over step

Benefits:

  • Stretches your calf muscles

  • Mobilises your ankle joints

  • Activates your calf muscles

Dynamic stretching exercise 5: Heel lifts and drops over step

6. Leg swings forward and back

Benefits:

  • Stretches hamstrings and hip flexors

  • Mobilises your sciatic nerve and hip joint

  • Activates your hip flexors and glutes

Dynamic stretching exercise 6: Legs swings forward and back

7. Leg swings side-to-side

Benefits:

  • Stretches your inner thigh muscles (adductors) and outer glutes

  • Mobilises your hip joint

  • Activates your inner thigh muscles and outer glutes

Dynamic stretching exercise 7: Leg swings side to side

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.

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About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn or ResearchGate.



References:

  1. 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.

  2. Chatzopoulos, Dimitris, et al. “Acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on balance, agility, reaction time and movement time.” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine 13.2 (2014): 403.

  3. Herbert, Robert D., Marcos de Noronha, and Steven J. Kamper. “Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise.” The Cochrane Library (2011).

  4. Kay, Anthony D., and Anthony J. Blazevich. “Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44.1 (2012): 154-164.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Opplert J, Babault N. Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature. Sports Med 2017:1-27.

  8. Samson, Michael, et al. “Effects of dynamic and static stretching within general and activity specific warm-up protocols.” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine 11.2 (2012): 279.

  9. 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.

  10. Yamaguchi, Taichi, and Kojiro Ishii. “An optimal protocol for dynamic stretching to improve explosive performance.” The Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine 3.1 (2014): 121-129.

  11. Bizzini M, Dvorak JFIFA 11+: an effective programme to prevent football injuries in various player groups worldwide—a narrative review British Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;49:577-579.