Dynamic Exercises Beat Static Stretching
When it comes to warming up, dynamic exercises are far superior to static stretching. Not only do they loosen things up without harming performance, but the right combination can also activate muscles and enhance performance. Here are three effective movements to toss into your warm-up routine.
1 – Active Deep Squats
The deep bodyweight squat should already be part of your daily routine. And yes, technically it's a static stretch, but it's the one static stretch that will change your life.
What's even better than the deep squat, though, is the dynamic movements you can perform while in one. These movements will not only loosen up the three areas that are commonly tight (hips, knees, low-back), but they'll also give you the opportunity to zone in on the lats, scaps, and glutes. Consider the "cat camel."
The Cat Camel
This is a good introduction to how to move while in the deep squat, and it's spectacular for stretching the low back, firing up the scaps, and improving body awareness.
To get more from the exercise, focus just as much on protracting and retracting your shoulder blades as you do on rounding and arching your lower back. Also, don't be afraid to bring the knees in during the camel (round) and push them out on the cat (arch) to really warm up the hip sockets.
The more advanced "around the world" is very useful for the external and internal rotators of the hip, which tend to have some residual kinks no matter how well you warm-up.
Around the World
This will also loosen up the knees by acquainting them with the extended ranges that may or may not be encountered in the upcoming lifting session. Bonus: They'll also give the lats and trunk a good stretch.
2 – Low Back Lunge
Some sort of hip flexor or glute medius stretch should always be part of a dynamic warm-up. These muscles are commonly tight from sitting and aggravated from lifting. Unfortunately, the classic leg swings and walking lunges don't always do the trick.
The low back lunge, on the other hand, definitely stretches the hip flexor if the back leg is kept straight, in addition to stretching the glute and quadratus lumborum (when the elbow is brought towards the foot). Plus, the movement plugs right into the traditional 10-20 yard group training warm-up of butt kicks, hamstring sweeps, side lunges, and running A's.
Low Back Lunge
The extra trunk twist in the video is totally optional, but it's an easily incorporated addition that gets rid of that T-spine tightness the wanna-be physio trainers always talk about.
3 – Crab Rolls
It has a stupid name and it's stupid looking, but this movement sequence is fantastic, not only for your tight neck and shoulders, but for activating the one muscle group we all need more activation in –- the glutes!
Neck Roll to Crab Bridge
The key is keeping your palms down and fingers pointing forward while getting your crotch as close to your face as possible on the roll back, with full extension of the hips in the crab bridge.
You'll likely feel it in the shoulders and biceps more than anything, but get in the habit of firing your glutes and trying to hold the stretch for a brief pause at the top (provided you're wearing boxers, of course).
Unfortunately, the demands of 21st century living (chairs, cars, and computers) are giving us flat, underactive asses and the posture of that guy who only does bench. So, do yourself and the opposite sex a favor and start crab rolling regularly.
Bonus: More Active Warm-Up Ideas
Want more? Pick up a few new ideas here: