Movement Prep: Dynamic Stretching Before You Workout

In October of last year we published our first strength piece — Get in Shape for Ski Season — featuring variations of fundamental lower body movements. While one can, with focus, tangibly improve strength over a six week time frame, Benny Profane’s comment was right: skiers are made in the summer.

A long-term approach will improve the daily movement of living as well as your skiing.

This series will be structured like one of my training sessions. Movement prep; lower body; upper body; core strength; stretching post workout.

As a reminder, these articles are based on the expectation that you’re in good physical shape; and that if you’ve been inactive, you’ve discussed ramping up your activity with your physician. If you have orthopedic challenges, e.g. ACL tear or a joint replacement, or chronic disease issues like hypertension, please consult your physician before hitting the gym.

Movement prep is a fancy term for warming up. Warming up can be as simple as walking on a treadmill or riding a bike for 10 minutes. Plenty of people do this: your muscles heat up and your heart rate elevates. But walking on a treadmill doesn’t prepare joints for movement. The goal is to increase range of motion, alleviate muscle tightness and reduce the risk of injury. Poor flexibility can increase the risk of poor posture and altered joint mechanics, which in turn can lead to the risk of injury. For example, if I’ve planning to do front squats and I skip movement prep, I know I’m going to strain my adductor muscles.

If your gym has foam rollers available, start with a few minutes on one. Foam rolling can relieve trigger points – knots within muscle tissue – and improve tissue extensibility. They’re available at Dick’s Sporting Goods, specialty running or triathlete stores, and online.

The key to using a foam roller is to focus on the muscle belly. DO NOT foam roll joints, e.g. the knee, the low back, the hip. The only joint you can safely foam roll is the scapulae – shoulder blades. (The shoulder blades aren’t true joints, but that’s a post for another day) If you find a knot, lean into it for 10-20 seconds. In the video, I demonstrate foam rolling the calf, quadriceps, latissimus dorsi, and shoulders.

In the video, you’ll see that when it comes to foam rolling the lats, it’s a quite narrow range of motion. Stay on muscle and away from ribs. When foam rolling your shoulder blades, be sure to support your head as demonstrated in the video.

For pre-workout movement prep, I prefer dynamic movements rather than static stretching. Static stretching is where for example you’re holding a stretch for 30 seconds. This is great post-workout. However there’s research out there showing that static stretching before a workout relaxes the muscles a little too much resulting in a less than optimally effective workout.

There are dozens of options for dynamic stretching. Today I’m focusing on lumbopelvic hip mobility and shoulder mobility. In the video below there are four movements and I’ve provided vocal cues.

Think of the spiderman as a walking lunge that adds thoracic rotation. Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, take a big step forward, then lean forward while rotating your trunk so you’re reaching for the sky. Reach upward with the same side arm that took the step, e.g. if you stepped forward with your left foot, your left hand should reach for the sky.

For the atomic frog, you’re on hands and knees on the floor. Feet together, knees out, uh, like a frog. Reach across your body and place one hand in front of the other. Then externally rotate that hip. If you put your right hand in front of your left, you want to externally rotate the right hip.

The first shoulder movement is for shoulder protraction/retraction; the second one is for elevation/depression.

My next post will discuss leg strength. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

Peter Minde is a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He also has NASM’s Corrective Exercise certification and is a Certified Functional Strength Coach. He trains at fitness studios in Morris Plains, NJ; Woodland Park, NJ; Ideal Strength and Fitness in Morris Plains NJ; and in-home. Contact: [email protected]

4 comments on “Movement Prep: Dynamic Stretching Before You Workout

  1. Dynamic stretching is where it’s at. But you already knew that, look at those credentials! Great post, Peter. Looking forward to continuing HardBodies2018 with your series.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I need to work on this stuff a lot more. I’ll be looking for the next installment

  3. Thank you for all the comments. In my 30s, I’d just go into the gym and start lifting. However as we get older we need to pay attention to flexibility as well as muscular strength.

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