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What Is Dynamic Stretching?

Stretching This Way Before a Workout Can Actually Harm You — Here's What to Do Instead

Photographer: Kathryna HancockRestrictions: Editorial and internal use only. No advertising, no print

If you thought holding a long hamstring stretch or calf stretch before heading out on a run was helpful, you've been living a lie, friend. This is called static stretching, and it can actually wreck your workout. For real! It's a recovery tactic, not a warmup tool!

"Studies have shown that static stretching — sometimes called yin stretching — prior to exercise decreases power output by eight to 11 percent at least," said Alex Brown, LMT and founder of Muscle Butter therapy in San Francisco, CA. "If you're wanting to perform for a race or even just get a good training run in, static stretching is not serving you."

But here's the thing: you still need to warm up the body before exercising. How do you do that? With dynamic stretching, static stretching's more fluid, pre-workout counterpart. "Dynamic stretching is a warmup for explosive movement," Brown told POPSUGAR. "It can be done before any workout, like running, walking, plyometrics, HIIT workouts, and weightlifting."

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She described the chief purposes of dynamic stretching: "to get the blood flowing" and "to mimic the activity that you're about to do, to prime the muscles, and warm the body in preparation for that activity," she said.

While you'll use your static, yin stretches for a cooldown, you'll be using dynamic stretching before you exercise to "literally wake up your muscles" and reestablish the brain-body connection, which in turn helps prevent injury and put a stop to "compensation patterns" — your body's way of using the wrong muscles for certain movements (and thus leading to injury yet again).

So remember: fluid, dynamic, motion-mimicking stretches before you work out, and static, long-hold stretches afterward for the cooldown. Cool? Cool.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kathryna Hancock
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