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A warm-up is an essential part of any workout routine. Stretching before your workout awakens your muscles, helping prevent injury and enhancing your full range of motion. A quick way to loosen the muscles and joints before an exercise session is to do dynamic stretches.
If you’re about to get yourself some leg day at work, at home, or at the gym, try out these dynamic exercises to improve your athletic performance.
Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching
No matter what kind of exercise you’re about to do, it’s very important to not skip stretch warm-ups. However, if you’re not up to speed with the two kinds of stretching exercises, you may do the muscles more harm than good. It’s best to know the difference between static stretches and dynamic stretching as well as when to do each of them.
Static stretches require you to move your muscles as far as they can go without feeling any pain, and then hold the position for a couple of seconds. These are commonly done in cool-down routines because static stretch exercises are more of a relaxation movement for the body rather than a warm-up.
Dynamic stretches are much preferred to have in warm-up routines as they are controlled movements that prepare the muscles and ligaments for the workout ahead. Dynamic warm-up exercises mimic the activity or movement that you’re going to do in whatever sport or workout. It helps in rehearsing upper body and lower body movement patterns, exciting the muscles and warming them up faster, which then helps improve power and increases coordination.
Best Lower Body Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic stretch exercises are functional, controlled movements that help increase muscle temperature and decrease muscle stiffness. If you’re about to do some leg work, it’s best to do dynamic warm-up exercises designed for the lower body.
From a standing position, raise your right leg with the knee bent. Grab it with your right hand. Next, grab your ankle with your left hand, raising it up toward your left shoulder. Lean forward, let the leg go to step on it, then switch legs. Keep alternating legs as you walk forward.
Start in an athletic position, with your knees slightly bent and your hips back. Take a few quick steps to the right, and then touch your right foot. Repeat on the left side.
Forward Leg Swings
This dynamic stretch helps prepare your hip flexors for running. Stand up straight and hold onto a wall for balance. Swing one leg forward and backward in a single smooth movement. Switch legs.
Reverse Lunge Front Kick
Take a step back using one foot and lunge. As you come up, kick a leg up. Repeat this movement with your other foot, and keep alternating legs for 60 seconds.
World’s Greatest Stretch
Lunge forward with your left leg and drop your right knee almost to the ground. Next, plant your right hand on the ground, aligning it with your left knee. With your left arm, reach up toward the ceiling, turn your shoulders to the left, and follow your hand with your eyes.
Return to the center and step up your right foot in line with your left. Repeat on the right side and continue to lunge forward. Switch sides in each rep, continuing for 30 seconds.
Lunge with a Twist
This warm-up can be felt in the hip flexor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Next, take a huge step forward with your left foot and lower yourself until your left knee is bent at 90 degrees. Keep your other leg straight. Place both hands on the floor, on either side of your left foot, for support. Then, twist to the left from your waist as you draw your left hand up, directing your gaze toward the ceiling. Return to the initial position and repeat on the opposite leg.
Face sideways and using one leg, take a big step to the side. Lean to that side and straighten out the knee of the opposite leg. Stick your butt back, keeping your weight on your heels. Keep both feet pointed straight forward.
Next, switch legs, leaning toward the opposite leg, before stepping back up to the center. Do at least five steps in one direction before switching to the opposite direction.
Squat to Hamstring Stretch
For your starting position, stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, bend forward at the waist to grab your toes with your hands. Drop down into a deep squat while keeping your arms straight. Make sure that your elbows are inside your knees, your back flat, and your chest up.
As you hold your toes, raise your hips back and straighten your knees until you feel a good stretch in the back of your legs. Reverse the movement pattern, returning to the starting position.
Leg Kicks with Opposite Arm Reach
Begin in a standing position. Bring your right leg straight out in front of you and reach for your toes using the opposite hand. As much as possible, keep your foot flexed when doing a kick. Try to keep a tall posture and don’t lean forward. If you can’t reach your toes, try to get as close as possible, alternating legs and arms as you slowly walk forward.
Keeping both legs straight, ground through your feet, and lift through your thighs. Spread your arms wide at shoulder height, rolling your front thigh open. Hinge at the front hip. Lengthen your spine towards your front foot, and release your right palm to the right shin, right ankle, or the floor. Repeat on the opposite side.
Walking Spiderman Lunges
Use this exercise to dynamically warm up many areas at once. Furthermore, it also increases your hip mobility, stretches your thoracic spine, and improves your blood flow. With your left leg, lunge forward about 30 degrees. Place both hands on the ground as you keep your elbows locked. Press your trailing knee to the ground.
Squeeze the glute of the other leg and extend your right arm to the sky. Train your gaze on your hand. Try to maintain a neutral arch in your lower back throughout. Stand, and repeat on the other side.
Wall Ankle Mobilizations
Lower body issues such as knee pain and lower back pain can occur when your ankles are restricted. Improving your ankle mobility can help a lot, especially if you’re a runner or if you’re trying to lift more weight. Begin by standing, facing a wall with one foot a few inches away from the wall.
Keep your heel on the ground, and drive one knee over your middle three toes and touch the wall. Adjust the distance of your foot from the wall so that you get a good stretch in your ankles. As much as possible, try to touch the wall with your knee and keep your heel on the floor.
Incorporating flexibility training exercises like dynamic stretching before your workout can increase the body’s range of motion and flexibility. Moreover, it also improves your performance in your activity or sport and lowers your chance of injury. If you feel any discomfort during your warm-ups or workout, stop and seek a personal trainer or a conditioning specialist.