So you finally decide to head to the gym to exercise, after doing some static stretches you then hit the treadmill, only to pull to a muscle some minutes later. You wouldn’t think it but just holding a stretch for a few seconds doesn’t prepare your body properly for exercise and is a recipe for injury. So here are some tips on how to warm-up properly using some dynamic stretches.
Why use dynamic stretches?
Picture your muscles as if they were rubber bands. If you’ve been sitting in the office all day and it’s the middle of winter, then not only haven’t they been used but they would’ve tightened more due to the cold. If you then go to the gym do some light stretches and immediately start to exercise, those cold muscles will start to get pulled causing them to snap.
You need to do an active warm-up to increase your muscles temperature so that the collagen fibers become more elastic. Dynamic stretches warm up your muscles and body faster than low-level aerobic exercises. It can also increase blood flow, improve your muscle and joint flexibility as well as help keep your muscles loose, strong and warm.
This exercise helps to loosen your hips as well as engage your hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves. Start by stepping forward and dropping your hips, make sure that that your knee doesn’t go past your toes while doing it as slow and in control as possible.
You can also add in a horizontal twist, which stretches your middle and upper back. So after you lunge, slowly twist towards the side you’re lunging on and hold for 2 seconds, you can then alternate by doing 10 or 12 reps for each side.
In this stretch you can start by supporting yourself with one arm on a wall. Then swing your opposite leg forwards and backwards, doing 20 reps for each leg. When swinging your leg forward be sure to keep it straight so that it stretches your hamstrings. As you swing it back try and kick yourself in the butt so you can stretch your quads.
Did you know that your shoulder has the largest range of movement in comparison to any other joint? This is why it’s important that your stretch it properly, this is where arm circles come in. Start this exercise by standing with your knees bent slightly and your feet shoulder width part.
While keeping your back straight swing both arms until they are overhead and then forwards, down and then backwards, repeat this 6 to 10 times. To make it more challenging you can dumbbells or plates.
Knee to Chest
Also known as hand to big toe pose in yoga, this stretch can improve your balance, flexibility and relive lower back pain as it stretches your hips, butt and hamstrings.
You start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and with your arms at your side. Then while keeping your back straight bring your knee towards your chest and hug your shin while stepping onto your toes with the opposite foot. Hold it for 2 seconds and then switch to the other leg doing 2 to 3 repetitions.
So why not use the above techniques next time you head out to the gym or go for a jog in the park, you’ll not only find that exercising becomes much easier but you’ll also have less injuries to worry about.