Its 5:30am and you just walked into the gym after a full night’s rest. Your entire body has been inactive for at least 8 hours, and before you even think about getting on that cardio machine or lifting any type of weight, you should be focusing on getting your body warmed up and ready for physical activity.
Enter Dynamic stretching, a low stress active form of stretching that takes a joint and its corresponding muscle groups through their full range of motion. This repetitive movement helps to warm up, or bring bring blood flow, to the part of the body that you are going to work out. If you’re one of those people who starts lifting or exercising without doing some sort of warm up, STOP THAT! Exercising on muscles that aren’t ready to receive the load puts them at risk for injury. Even static stretching, the type of stretching where you hold a position for about 30 seconds, can result in injury if the muscle isn’t warmed up prior.
Here are my favorite lower body dynamic stretches:
1. HIP CIRCLES
What they target: Hips and the glutes
How they’re done: Begin in a standing position with the feet shoulder width apart. Bring the right knee up towards the chest and then circle it out towards the right through the hip’s full range of motion. Repeat for 10 reps on each leg.
Why they're important: The more women that I come in contact with, the more I’m realizing how common tight hips really are. Most of us sit all day at work, keeping our hips in a flexed position, which contributes to our tight hips and
decreased range of motion. Being that nearly all lower body exercises require some movement of the hips, warming them up before activity and keeping them flexible will help you get more out of your sessions.
2. BUTT KICKS
What they target: Hamstrings and quads
How they're done: This movement is done in a standing position with the legs shoulder width apart. Keeping the knees parallel with one another, bring one heel up towards your butt then back down to starting position. Repeat on the left leg and alternate for a total of 20 reps.
Why they're important: Warming up the quads and hamstrings is essential to any productive lower body workout. These are the primary muscle groups in most lower body movements and because of that, they are most vulnerable to injury if they are not properly warmed up.
3. KNEE HUGS
What they target: Glutes and hip flexors
How they’re done: Standing with the legs shoulder width apart, bring one knee up towards the chest and grasp it with both arms. Tug gently into the the body then release. Alternate for a total of 10-20 reps.
Why they’re important: This movement helps to really activate the glutes and hip flexors while increasing flexibility.
4. LEG SWINGS
What they target: Hips, glutes, and hamstrings
How they’re done: Start in a standing position with the legs shoulder width apart. If you are beginning or struggle with balance, you can also stabilize yourself on the wall or with a fixed object. With the weight of your body on your left leg, gently swing your
right leg forward and then back through the full range of motion of the hip.
Why they’re important: This movement is the most dynamic of the movements listed here and works a great deal of your lower body simultaneously. Leg swings not only prepare your lower body for activity, but also challenge your flexibility and balance as
well. Just like the hip circles, these ensure that your tight hips are ready for whatever your leg workout throws at them!
Whether you workout in the morning, evening, or anywhere in between, dynamic stretching is a valuable and quick way to see more results and maintain safety during exercise.
Give these stretches a try before your next lower body workout and let me know if they helped you!