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Athletes or any active people do stretching exercises before engaging in any intense physical activity. Stretching has long been a part of training regiments, and it’s the most important part of that, as it can improve flexibility and range of motion of the joints and muscles, allowing physically active individuals to reach peak performance. When you warm up the muscles via stretching, your tendons become more compliant, and your body is prepared to perform any activity. Stretching can reduce a person’s risk of acquiring any injury while doing sports or intense activities.
While you may not be an athlete or you may rarely participate in sports or physically-demanding activities, it’s still important for you to do stretching exercises, particularly if you’re a desk worker. Most workers who have a desk job sit for long periods in their office chair, moving very little or staying in one position for hours. When that happens, our muscles tend to become stiff and sore, leading us to develop all kinds of health issues such as back aches, joint pain, neck strain, shoulder aches, and more.
In this article, we’ll be discussing dynamic stretching and what benefits it can offer to you as a desk worker. Plus, we’ll also provide tips on how you can incorporate dynamic stretching in your daily routine. Let’s get to it!
Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching
You may be telling yourself right now, aren’t all stretches the same thing? Maybe you’re even asking yourself what in the world is dynamic stretching anyway? Worry not, we’re here to answer all your questions. Usually, when we think of stretching, we think of stretches that target a particular set of muscles and holding that stretch pose for a couple of seconds.
Those stretches are actually called “static stretches.” As mentioned, static stretching typically involves no movement and should be held in position for about 10 to 60 seconds each set. Some examples of static stretching are calf stretches, hamstring stretches, triceps stretch, butterfly stretch, and more. It’s worth noting that while static stretching can also increase the flexibility of muscles, it shouldn’t be done before a workout. This is because the “relaxed muscles” may hinder athletic performance and the body won’t be properly prepared for the demand of high-intensity activities.
On the other hand, dynamic stretching involves working the muscles and joints through a range of motion with each repetition. It can help enhance muscle power, improve strength, and most importantly, prevent injuries. By doing dynamic stretches before any intense physical activity, your muscles will be activated, increasing the blood flow through your body and preparing you for all kinds of movement.
According to Dr. Rachel Tavel, Doctor of Physical Therapy and PT at Shift Wellness in New York City, dynamic stretching is favored over static stretching as not only does it help to prevent injury, it can also loosen tight muscles. When we sit at our work desk from 9 to 5, our muscles tend to be tight by the end of the day or turn stiff over time. By doing dynamic stretches as opposed to traditional stretching methods, we can loosen our muscles further, increase blood flow, improve range of motion, enhance joint flexibility, and reduce risk of injury.
What Is The Most Dynamic Stretch?
There are numerous dynamic stretches that you can do, but one that incorporates your entire body is a stretch called Hamstring to Squat Reach. This one is difficult to do but it’s an incredible stretch that opens the hamstrings and hips, all the while addressing upper body mobility which you need to maintain good posture.
From a standing position, take your feet a little wider than the hips. Next, reach down and touch your toes and then drop your hips to a low squat. Make sure to keep your heels grounded. While you’re at the bottom of your squat, reach your arms overhead. Rise to stand. Do about 5 to 7 reps of this stretch at a slow pace.
What Are 10 Dynamic Stretches?
Dynamic stretching exercises can be done as a warm up before a rigorous sport or activity. But also, they can be tailored to fit your own needs and can be used as a part of your daily exercise routine. Most dynamic stretches don’t require any special equipment at all. All you need is your body and sometimes, a mat to comfortably do the stretches that require you to be on the floor. Check out these dynamic stretches that you can try and reap the benefits daily!
Dynamic Stretches for the Upper Body
When you sit on your chair for long periods, your entire body suffers. You might experience a lot of back pain, or maybe feel like you’re carrying a lot of tension on your shoulders. You might not even realize that you’ve developed poor posture due to slouching all day. Try any of these dynamic stretching workouts to undo the kinks and knots on your upper half.
This simple dynamic stretching workout helps build your shoulder endurance and reduce the risk of rotator cuff injury. To perform arm circles, begin by bringing your arms straight out to the side like you’re making the letter T. Circle your arms forward for 30 seconds. Then, reverse the movement by circling your arms in the opposite direction for another 30 seconds. To have a more challenging workout, you may also hold weights while doing this.
Down Dog to Runner’s Lunge Twist
This one is a flow that opens everything from your backside to the spine. Start in a down dog position by coming to your hands and knees, wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath the hips. Curl your toes under, pushing back through your hands to lift your hips and straighten your legs. Spread your fingers and ground down from the forearms to the fingertips with your upper arms rotated outward. Allow your head to hand and move your shoulder blades away from your ears.
Next, lunge one foot forward between the hands. Keep your opposite hand on the ground as you twist towards your forward knee, lifting your other hand up. Step back to down dog and switch sides. Do 5 of this on each side, alternating sides on each rep.
Having a stable core is the key to better spine health and an improved posture overall. Including this workout in your warmup or daily routine can definitely aid you in that. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, your wrists stacked under your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips. Next, extend your left arm forward and right leg back. Try to maintain a flat back and keep your hips in line with the floor.
Afterward, squeeze your abs and draw your left elbow and right knee in to meet near the center of your body. Reverse the movement by extending your arm and leg back out. Keep your right foot flexed throughout the exercise. This counts as one rep. Complete three slow and controlled reps on each side. You may also add a five-second hold with each arm and leg extension. If you’re having a hard time keeping your balance, you can keep the toes of the working leg on the ground and straighten your leg by sliding it out and back.
A popular yoga pose, the cat cow can also be done as a dynamic stretching warm up exercise that brings awareness to each segment of the spine, back, and shoulders. Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Slowly inhale and on the exhale, round your spin, dropping your head toward the floor and lifting your belly button toward the ceiling. This is the cat pose.
On your next inhale, lift your head, chest, and tailbone toward the ceiling by arching your lower back. This motion is the cow pose. Perform three slow and controlled reps. It’s important to note that your arms have to be straight throughout the workout. If you feel discomfort on your wrists, you can use your elbows or place your hands on a yoga block instead.
Walking Lunge Twist
Begin by standing with your arms clasped behind your head. Next, step forward into a forward lunge, going down on one knee. While in the lunge position, rotate your upper body towards the opposite leg of the one in front. Perform 10 of these, alternating sides and the direction of the twist with each step.
Dynamic Stretches for the Lower Body
Dynamic stretching warm ups that involve the lower extremities can increase the range of motion of your glutes, thighs, quads, and more. By encouraging more movement and blood flow to your legs, you can reduce the chances of developing vascular diseases. Shake your legs off and try these workouts!
Doing calf raises as a warm up can increase the blood flow to the calf muscles, waking them up for running and enhancing their range of motion. This can also be beneficial for those who wear high heels to work. To do this, start in a standing position. Next, lift yourself up on the tips of your toes and then lower back down. Do about 15 to 20 reps.
This is a simple yet effective dynamic stretching technique to activate the muscles in the lower body, particularly your quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors. To perform leg swings, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart as a starting position. You can hold onto a wall or chair for added stability. Next, swing one leg straight back and forth as high as you can while keeping the opposite leg firmly planted on the ground. Do as many reps as you want and then repeat with the other side.
Knee to Chest
This dynamic stretching workout strengthens your lower back, preventing any unwanted lumbar pain. To perform this, begin by standing upright, feet and toes facing forward. Take a step forward and raise your knee as high as you can, grasping your knee with both hands. Hug the knee to your chest while maintaining a tall posture. Try to keep your core engaged throughout the movement. Alternate on both sides for 60 seconds or as long as you desire.
Side Lunge Touching Heel
The side lunge is a great way to activate your quadriceps and gluteal muscles. To do this workout, begin with the knees and hips slightly bent, feet hip-width apart, your head and chest up. Staying low, take a slow, lateral step to the right. Keep your toes pointed forward. Extend the left knee, driving your weight to the right, flexing the knee and hip into a side lunge.
As you lower yourself, reach across with your left hand to touch your right heel or ankle. Try to maintain a good posture by straightening the spine and keeping your head and chest up. Pause at the bottom of the motion and then return to a standing position by extending the one leg you’re currently working on. Afterward, smoothly transition to a lunge to the opposite side.
Hip Stretch with Twist
The hip stretch with a twist is an ideal stretch to warm up your hips and enhance your hip mobility. To perform this, simply start in a push-up position. Next, step towards the front with one knee and then extend your opposite arm straight, reaching for the ceiling. Keep your core tight and hop at the top of the position for about 2 to 3 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
There you have it! With these dynamic stretch workouts, you can loosen up those tight knots, improve your posture, gain a wider range of motion, prevent injuries, and have a healthier, more fit body overall. Do remember though that if you feel any discomfort, it’s important to not push yourself further. Seek a doctor immediately so that you can get professional medical advice to continue with your workouts in a safe manner. Stay fit, stay healthy!