This 12-Move Dynamic Stretching Routine Will Open You up From Head to Toes

Deep squat of young beautiful woman in sportswear doing squat while standing in front of glass at gym
When you’re about to push your body to its limits during a workout, the very first thing you want to do is perform a warmup that will adequately prep your body for what’s to come. Enter dynamic stretching, or the idea that moving through stretches will help to make your workout more impactful in the long run.

“Warmups gradually rev up your cardiovascular system, increasing your heart rate, systolic blood pressure, cardiac output, and body temperature to improve blood flow to your muscles, effectively preparing them for the positive stress of exercise,” says manager of training development and barre kinesiologist at Pure Barre Rachelle Reed, PhD. “Some studies also show that warmups may reduce the risk of injuries.”

While that’s all legit, you might be wondering what actually constitutes a well-rounded dynamic warmup. According to Reed, the trick is to perform multi-muscle group, multi-joint movements to gauge your range of motion and help your body warm-up efficiently for 5 to 10 minutes before diving into full sets.

As for the exact exercises, ahead, with the help of some of the industry’s top trainers, we’ve listed 12 dynamic body movements that will leave your limbs feeling ready for whatever you have in store for your workout du jour.

1. Inchworm Push-ups

Mindbody wellness manager Kate Ligler, NASM-certified Flywheel instructor Jared Poulin, and personal trainer, New York Sports Club Lab master instructor Bianca Vesco agree that a few rounds of this movement will work wonders when prepping your body from head to toe.  To perform the exercise, Vesco says to “hang over your legs with soft knees and slowly walk out to a plank position, include a pushup in full range of motion, whether that means on your toes or on your knees, reset into plank and slowly walk your hands back to your toes, before rolling up a single vertebrae at a time.” For best results, Poulin recommends repeating the process 10 times before moving to the next stage of your warmup.

2. World's Greatest Stretch

If you’re trying to keep your hips and groin loose, look no further than this all-star move. “Start by lunging forward with the right leg and drop your right forearm to the ground and hold for 10 seconds,” Poulin says. “This will help open the hips and groin.” Next, place your left palm on the ground and extend your right hand to the ceiling for 10 reps. “This will help to warm up the thoracic spine, shoulders, and hamstrings.” Lastly, continuing in your lunge position, he says to rock your hips back so your right leg is extended in front of you, keeping your heel down, which Poulin adds will help to open up the hamstring in the front leg and the calf muscle in the back. Hold this for 10 seconds and repeat for the left side.

3. Low-lunge twist from downward-facing dog

Yoga is known for its deep stretching, and what better way to warm-up your bod than to slowly (but fluidly) twist your limbs? “Inhale into three-legged dog, exhale low lunge, inhale low lunge twist,” says Stephanie Solovy, CorePower Yoga instructor.  “Anchor your left palm into the mat as you extend your right arm up to the ceiling.” To stabilize your body, she instructs to draw your inner thighs towards one another. “Exhale low lunge, inhale three-legged down dog, exhale down dog, and then switch sides."

4. Air squat or jump squat

It’s no secret that squats are one of the most fundamental movements on the fitness market, which also makes them a great way fire up the glutes, hamstrings, and hips. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and send your hips back like you're about to sit in a chair. “Let the legs bend to a solid 90 degrees and drive through the heels to push yourself back to standing while squeezing the glute muscles,” he instructs. “While performing the squat, be sure to keep the chest lifted, keeping your gaze towards the ceiling, which helps to propel your energy upwards.” If you want to amplify this a step further, Poulin suggests adding a jump as you propel your body vertically: “This exercise is also a great way to warm up the knees, making it a great choice before biking, barre, HIIT exercises, and the like.”

5. Plank-sphinx warmup

Give your abs, spine, and booty a boost with this seemingly simple, but totally effective move. “From sphinx pose, start with your belly, legs, and tops of feet down on the mat,” Solovy says. “Stack forearms underneath shoulders—arms flat and parallel. Push through forearms and lift your lower core, hips, and thighs as you push into the top of your feet. Hold forearm plank, reverse lower thighs, hips, lower core, and then pull chest forward into Sphinx pose.”

6. Jumping jacks

“I’m a huge fan of jumping jacks, as they warm up your ankles and calves, and can also open up your shoulders and chest,” Vesco explains, noting that she includes them in her routine almost daily.

If you don’t remember your elementary days, allow us to refresh your memory. Standing with your feet together and arms by your side, jump up, spreading your feet to hip-width, while simultaneously lifting your arms out to your sides and up over your head so that your hands nearly touch. Repeat the process rapidly 25-to-30 times to get your blood flowing.

7. Chair pose with chest expansion

Target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and triceps with this multidimensional movement. “From chair pose, squeeze your inner thighs together and reach your arms over head,” Solovy instructs. “Exhale chair with airplane arms and extend your arms back behind you to turn on your triceps.” Once your arms are behind your back, she says to interlace your hands for a chest expansion. “Draw your hands down towards the ground to open your chest, exhale forward fold with bound arms,” Solovy recites. “Bend your elbows and hug them towards one another behind you to open your chest and stretch along your shoulders.”

8. Pass-throughs

While this warmup works to target the shoulder joint primarily, its effect on mobility and flexibility in the area is unsurpassed, making it a no-brainer for a dynamic warmup routine. To complete the exercise, grasp a stretch rope, band, towel, or PVC pipe with a wide grip. “With straight arms, pass the rope from your stomach over your head to your lower back,” Ligler advises. “Slowly walk your hands closer together as mobility increases.”

9. Iron crosses

Who says you have to be standing or kneeling to get a good warmup in? This movement lets you cater to your core by parking it on the ground. “Lie on your back and extend your legs to the ceiling with knees bent at 90 degrees,” Ligler instructs. “Stretch your arms wide at your sides ensuring your shoulder blades, spine, and palms are all in contact with the floor. Slowly rotate your knees from side to side 10 to 20 times keeping shoulder blades pinned to the floor to challenge your postural muscles.”

10. Hip swings

You never want to work out your lower body without first warming it up—especially when it comes to your hips. According to Ligler, one of the best ways to do so is to get loosey goosey with it. “Lean against a wall with straight arms and extend one leg out in front of you,” she explains. “Swing your leg back and forth in front of your body laterally a few times—like a golf swing with your leg.”

11. Plank pike-up to push-up

Think of these as elevated inch worm push-ups. To perform the move, come down to your hands and knees, place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and walk the feet back behind you to a straight arm plank position. “Feet should be hip width apart, with the balls of the feet pressing down to the floor,” Reed points out. “Pike your hips up and back (think about pulling the navel up towards your spine) while you press the hands into the floor. Note that your heels will stay lifted. Lower your hips back down to a straight arm plank.” Once you’re back in plank position, do a pushup and repeat the whole process 10 times. “To modify, you can make your ranges of motion smaller for push-ups or work from your knees for the push-up portion,” Reed says.

12. Wide second lunging windmills

“These help you warm up through the hamstrings, quadriceps, hips, core muscles, and upper body,” says Reed. “Stand up and bring your feet out wider than your hips, turning your toes out just slightly. Extend your arms out to a T-shape, in line with your shoulders. Hinge forward slightly from the waist as you side lunge to the right, bending the right knee while the left leg stays straight. At the same time, reach your left hand to your right ankle. Keep your core engaged to help you keep a long, straight spine even in your hinge. Then, lunge left (right leg straightens as left knee bends) as you reach your right hand to the left ankle.” To really ignite your muscles in prep for the rest of your workout, repeat the process for two to three sets of 30 seconds.

Excited for new exercises to add to your warmup but looking for even more ways to switch up your routine? Consider learning how to perfect your posture like a ballerina or making a beeline for the stairmaster for what’s sure to be a lovely start to your sweat sesh.

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