Dynamic stretching is a new form of stretching rapidly gaining in popularity due to its proven benefits for performance (both explosive and endurance). Brazilian soccer is just one example of a popular sports that commonly incorporates dynamic stretching as part of warm up1. As with all types of stretching, the goal is to simultaneously prevent injuries and boost performance. But with static stretching now widely considered to be detrimental to performance, there is a growing interest in other forms of stretching that meet these criteria.
What Is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretching specifically involves extension, flexion or rotation of joints by contracting antagonist muscle groups of target muscle groups without bouncing. This means that the target muscle groups are stretched by causing reciprocal inhibition. Dynamic stretching is also thought to improve dynamic flexibility, i.e., movement smoothness or speed, related to motion of actual sports or physical activities by consciously simulating the movement.
With such a general all-encompassing definition, dynamic stretching naturally lends itself to many different types of exercises. This is both a positive and a negative. On the positive side, there are a plethora of dynamic stretches, which can be accommodated to incorporate movements specific to a given sport. On the negative side, however, because of the large diversity in stretches, some individuals may get overwhelmed and/or confused as to the ones best for them.
Two examples of common dynamic stretches that apply to a wide range of sports involving running are shown below. Variations on the lunge movement (i.e. side lunges, diagonal lunges, trunk twist) are very popular and broadly applicable dynamic stretches.
Variables of Dynamic Stretching
Taichi Yamaguchi and colleagues from the Rakuno Gakuen University in Japan are considered among the world leaders in research on dynamic stretching and how best to optimise it for performance improvement. Yamaguchi recently co-authored a paper that summarises the optimal protocol for dynamic stretching to enhance explosive power. The review details three key variables of dynamic stretching that must be controlled for. These variables are detailed below.
This variable is concerned with the speed at which the dynamic stretch is performed. Contrary to traditional dogma and belief, current recommendations and evidence suggest dynamic stretching be performed with ‘maximum’ velocity or speed. In fact, current recommendations suggest individuals perform the stretches/movements “as quickly as possible”1. This means there needs to be a concerted effort to concentrate on speed of movement during the dynamic stretch.
The number of repetitions is another crucial variable if one wants to maximise the benefits of dynamic stretching. 10-15 reps is the recommendation for the total number of repetitions per exercise1, 2.
Number Of Sets
The most recent review on the optimal protocol for dynamic stretching to improve explosive power recommend just 1-2 sets per exercise1. And in a recent study that applied the same model to endurance performance, 1 set of 10 repetitions of 5 different exercises was found to be effective in improving distance covered and time to exhaustion when running at 90% VO2max2.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching for Endurance Performance
While the bulk of studies on dynamic stretching have been conducted in relation to their ability to improve performance in sports requiring explosive performance such as sprinting and track and field events such as shot-put, javelin, discus, hammer throw etc; exciting new research has shown it can also help boost endurance performance.
As touched on above, 5 different running-specific dynamic stretches (1 set each with 10 reps) were performed by highly trained runners before a running test protocol. The five different dynamic stretches targeted the five major muscle groups in the legs as shown below. What’s more, each stretch was performed as quickly as possible in keeping with the guidelines by Yamaguchi and co.
Hip Flexors Dynamic Stretch
Hip Extensors Dynamic Stretch
Leg Extensors Dynamic Stretch
Leg Flexor Dynamic Stretch
Plantar Flexors Dynamic Stretch
Compared with when the runners did not perform any stretching, dynamic stretching performed immediately before their running test was found to significantly improve their time to exhaustion (928.6 vs 785.3 seconds) and total distance covered (4301 vs 3617 metres). Interestingly, there was no change in VO2max between performances, which reinforced the notion that improved performance was mediated largely by the dynamic stretching.
Dynamic Stretching Takeaways
With positive research on both endurance and strength/power-based sports, dynamic stretching shapes as one of the preferred methods for warming up and improving performance. One of the great benefits of dynamic stretching is its flexbility in terms of the different exercises that are possible. When devising dynamic stretches, consider the typical movements that you are expected to perform during your training session or race and try to mimic them with dynamic stretches. However, be sure that you focus of speed and limit the number of repetitions and exercises so as to get maximum benefit.
- Yamaguchi T & Ishii K. An optimal protocol for dynamic stretching to improve explosive performance. J Phys Fitness Sports Med. 2014;3(1): 121-129.
- Yamaguchi T, et al. Acute effect of dynamic stretching on endurance running performance in well-trained male runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2015 Apr 29. [Epub ahead of print]