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5 dynamic stretches to try before a workout

Take 5–10 minutes

This article was last updated on Aug. 17, 2021. 

You know that stretching is an important part of your pre- and post-workout routines. One type of stretching — dynamic stretching — is ideal before you work out to warm up the muscles. Static stretching is best for after you work out because it lengthens the muscles, relieves tension and relaxes the body. 

So, how do you get started? And how do you know what stretches to do? This full-body routine will get you ready for a productive workout — and it only takes 5–10 minutes.

  1. Runner’s lunge (5 reps on each side) 

    Why do it?

    The runner’s lunge is for everyone; not just runners. It opens the hip flexors and gives a much needed stretch to the lower body.

    How to do it

    With this stretch, you will look like a runner starting a race. Place one foot forward (in a lunge position) and both hands on either side of your foot. The other leg should be extended back and balanced on toes, or if needed, with your knee on the floor. If you need added balance, place both hands on your front bent knee. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch sides.

  2. Butt kicks (1 minute) 

    Why do it?

    This exercise wakes up your entire body, while warming up and stretching the quads, hamstrings and glutes.

    How to do it

    Start standing tall with your back straight and your chest out, bring one heel off the floor toward your glutes, while the opposite hand comes up toward your shoulder like running arms, then switch to the other side. You can do this stretch at varying speeds, from a slow walk to a fast run. You can choose to do butt-kicks in place or moving forward.

  3. Inchworms (5 reps) 

    Why do it?

    This movement safely stretches the hamstrings while also warming up the arms, chest, abs and upper and lower back.

    How to do it

    Starting in a downward dog position on your hands and feet, walk your feet as far forward as possible while keeping your legs straight. Then, walk your hands out, extending your body into a push-up position and lower toward the floor, arching your back so that your head and shoulders reach to the sky. Then, flow back into downward dog.

  4. Scorpions (5 reps on each side) 

    Why do it?

    This stretch improves hip mobility while strengthening the lower back and core.

    How to do it

    Start in a “T” formation, with face toward the floor, and roll your body to the side so that your heel comes across your body to meet your opposite hand. Return and repeat to other side.

  5. Lateral band walk (10 reps on each side) 

    Why do it?

    Lateral band walking warms up the muscles that stabilize the hips and pelvis. It is particularly helpful before any activity that requires running, jumping, twisting or pivoting. The exercise will help improve hip stability, strengthen hip abductors and increase stability of the knee joint.

    How to do it

    Using a small loop resistance band, position the band around both legs, just above your ankles. With feet shoulder-width apart, bend knees slightly in a half-squat position. Take a step sideways, then switch legs, shifting weight as you go. Keep hips level while moving.

So, what about post-exercise stretches?

According to Ryan, 5–10 minutes of static stretches are great after you exercise, paired with foam rolling or trigger point release.

“Trigger point release is when you use a firm ball, such as a tennis ball, to massage areas of your body where you feel tension and/or experience tight muscles,” says Ryan. “Begin by placing the ball in the area of tension, which could be lying on the ground or standing against the wall. Next, use your body weight to apply pressure to the targeted muscle. As you apply pressure, rotate your body clockwise and counterclockwise to alleviate tightness. Even though the feeling can cause discomfort, allow your muscle to ‘melt’ over the ball and relax.”

If you don't have time to stretch

“Even if it’s a minute or two, a little stretching is better than nothing at all,” says Ryan. “You’ll just feel better overall, and be better prepared for your next workout.”