STRETCH: Dynamic Stretching

Female girl kicking a ball playing on the sand beach in late eveWe have to learn static stretches, but dynamic stretches come naturally.  They are a part of our play as children and required when making a full effort in sports.

Photo by: Mike Baird


As we advance in our athletic training, the joy of dynamic stretching is swapped for the rigor of static stretches.  Once that shift is made, many lose interest in stretching altogether.

Photo by: Boomtish

Let’s bring the joy back!

One of the most recognizable dynamic stretches is the front high kick (photos).  This is a straightforward stretch.  Stand up straight with your kicking leg just back of your plant leg.  Kick your leg in front of you.  Take it up as high as it will go.  Return to the starting position.  This stretches out the hamstrings of your kicking leg and forces you to work on your balance with the plant leg and your trunk.

Note: Try varying your ankle position from toes pointed to toes straight back.  Also, bring some of your concentration to your core / trunk muscles.

Another dynamic leg stretch is the inside-out kick.  From the same starting position as the front high kick, swing your leg through an arc that crosses to the inside of your body, rises to the top above your head, and descends to the outside.  This dynamically stretches the hip musculature and requires more balancing strength.

The outside-in is the inside-out’s companion kick.  From the starting position, swing your leg slightly toward the outside of your body, follow the arc to above your head and complete it by bringing your leg to the inside of your body.  At the end of the kick, return your kicking leg to its starting position.

Advanced: Put your hand above your head and try to hit it with the bottom of your foot.

Super advanced: Clap your hand with the bottom of your foot.

For all of these kicks, you can do 10 with one leg and then switch and do ten with the other.  Or, you can do one kick on one side and then the next on the opposite.  As you get better at keeping your balance, you will want to increase the speed of the kicks, so that you are throwing two or three without pausing. This way, one rep equals two or even three kicks.

For the upper body, a preferred dynamic stretch is the crossover.  Start with outstretched arms, then swing them in with one arm crossing over the other.  Swing them back to the starting position.  The next time you bring the arms in, the opposite arm should be on top.

Note: Try doing this in a bent over row.  Also, alternate palm positions to vary the stretch.

For a total body stretch, I like hand walks.  Start on your hands and knees.  Lift your butt to form an inverted V.  Keep your hands planted, now walk your feet forward.  When your toes touch the back of your hands (or as far forward as they will come), walk your hands out to a full planche.  Now, walk your feet back to your hands.

Be careful people.  Go slow at first.  Being properly warmed up helps avoid injury, particularly with the kicking stretches.  Once you have a slight sheen of sweat going, you are ready for higher and faster kicks.

Further reading: STRETCH: Good Morning and check out this NY Times article for a brief review of why dynamic stretching is a better way of preparing the body for exercise than static stretching.

Q: There are lots of dynamic stretches out there to experiment with, isn’t it time that you brought the joy back to your stretching routine with a few them?


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