Dynamic is a word that often gets thrown around flippantly these days. It is a preferred adjective for shrewd marketers trying to allure potential consumers to purchase a good or service. This extensive usage is especially true in the fitness world when supposed gurus on social media promote “dynamic” ways to build muscle fast. This is may be stretching the definition at times, depending on the eye of the beholder in some cases, but it’s also not the only meaning of the word dynamic. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines dynamic as:
- A process or system characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.
- A person positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas.
Many people are likely not as familiar with the first definition of dynamic. However, that could start to change as dynamic warm-ups appear to be gaining some traction as people discover the value of this specific type of muscle warm-up, prior to a workout. These warm-ups involve stretching, but the concept not as simple as the standard stretching warm-up routine most people learn in grade school physical education.
Dynamic stretching preparing the body by getting the muscles warmed up through movement. Whether that is just jumping in one spot, or it is doing forward lunges just to get your hips and your hamstrings working.”
Ethridge is a former doctor turned Nashville country artist and songwriter, as well as a contributor to Generation Active. Of course, stretching is nothing new, neither are dynamic warm-ups. Yet an overly simplistic approach may obfuscate the value in the different types of stretching. Moreover, stretching muscles is an important component in any physical warm-up. It is crucial for anyone serious avoiding injury or pulled muscles.
“Stretching is a huge topic for exercise,” Eric says. “There is some confusion around stretching, and there are some myths about stretching. First of all, stretching – there’s a couple different kinds: static stretching and dynamic stretching.”
Static stretching has beneficial value, but may be limited depending on the particular workout goals of the individual. Warm-ups should not be limited to static stretching when preparing for high intensity exercise in particular, according to Eric.
“Another thing that we do know is that static stretching before doing an athletic activity, whether that’s sprinting or even if it is lifting heavy weights,” he says. “Static stretching beforehand creates a reduction in the overall power that somebody can create with those muscles.”
While a static stretch can target specific muscles, like glutes, hamstrings or hip flexors, a good dynamic warm-up routine will help create flexibility in other muscles as well. Examples of dynamic stretching include high knees, squats, inchworms, push-ups, lunges, arm circles and leg swings.
“But then, what does stretching do?” Eric says. “There is evidence that shows that if you stretch continually over a long period of time, you will get more flexible. Your muscles will allow your body to extend further.”
The benefits of stretching extend beyond injury prevention. Those nursing an existing injury or muscle soreness may find relief in careful static stretching.
“Another thing that it does, that we do know, is stretching is effective for reducing pain,” Eric says. “If you are stiff after the gym, or you have a muscle in particular– say it’s a muscle in your neck that is– or your arm– if you hold a static stretch for at least 60 seconds, you will notice a significant decrease in the amount of pain and sensitivity.”
Static stretching and dynamic stretching can also work as a complementary tandem, starting with one and ending with another, before beginning the workout.
“But when it comes to getting ready to move or be active, dynamic stretching or a dynamic warm up is much more effective,” he says. “Not only does it get the muscles prepped and ready to go move, but also preps your nervous system to generate force, which is good.”
It’s not just about going through the motions of stretching either. A dynamic warm-up routine has mental benefits as well. Nowhere is this more evident than with meditation, a discovery Eric believes would benefit many people who are overstressed and overworking themselves.
“Meditation is so effective. Twenty minutes a day can change your life,” Eric says. “Human beings are not built for the 21st century to be stressed out all the time. Human beings need to find ways to decrease their stress, whether it’s through doing an activity that you love, or it’s meditation.”
Eric also knows that warm-up exercises can apply to more than just physical workouts. As a singer, he understands the importance of stretching out his vocal chords during a warm-up routine. All of this is part of his holistic attitude on wellness.
“I believe that probably the best way to approach health is using a broad perspective,” he says. “What do people need to be healthy? We need sleep. We need to eat food. We also need to move. We need to move often. We need to move properly and not hurt ourselves. And then, we need to decrease stress.”
Watch Eric discuss stretching and dynamic and static warmups in the video below and you can learn some Foam Rolling Basics from him too.