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

Photo: Getty Images/ Luis Alvarez
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 warm-up that'll adequately prep your body for what’s to come. Enter dynamic stretching, or the idea that moving through head-to-toe stretches will help to make your workout more impactful in the long run.

“Warm-ups 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 Rachelle Reed, PhD, ACSM-EP, exercise physiologist and part-time teaching faculty at the University of Georgia.rache “Some studies also show that warm-ups may reduce the risk of injuries.”

Experts In This Article

With that being said, let's get into the specifics of what dynamic stretching is and what the best moves are to add your warm-ups for full-body flexibility and mobility.

First things first: What is dynamic stretching?

The first stretch that probably comes to mind is reaching down to touch your toes. That's actually an example of a static stretch, where you hold a stretch in one position for a period of time as far as you can go.

A dynamic stretch, on the other hand, is more active and takes your joints and muscles through their full ranges of motion to loosen them up, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). For example, if you were to swing your leg backward and forward, then side to side, that would be a dynamic stretch.

Dynamic stretches are best done as a warm-up to prime your body for exercise, per the HSS. Static stretches are best done as  a cooldown after your workout sesh to improve flexibility and prevent injury. (Stretching cold muscles in this way before a workout could lead to a muscle injury.)

The best dynamic stretches to add to your warm-ups

With the help of some of the industry’s top trainers, we’ve listed 12 effective dynamic stretches that will leave your limbs feeling ready for whatever you have in store for your workout du jour.

According to Reed, the trick is to perform these 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 of this dynamic stretching routine. (And if you want even more options, check out these stretching apps or take a stretching class!)

1. Inchworm push-up

Personal trainer Kate Ligler, CPT, fitness professional Jared Poulin, and personal trainer Bianca Vesco, CPT, agree that a few rounds of this movement will work wonders when prepping your body from head to toe.

How to do it:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and reach your hands to the ground.
  3. Walk your hands out in front of you into a high plank with your hands beneath your shoulders and a neutral spine.
  4. Perform a push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your body to the floor, then pushing yourself back up into a high plank.
  5. Walk your hands back to meet your feet and return to standing.
  6. Repeat for 10 reps.

2. World's greatest stretch

If you’re trying to keep your hips and groin loose, look no further than this all-star move.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a high plank position with your feet hip-width apart and your shoulders stacked with your wrists.
  2. Step your right foot forward and place it on the ground on the outside of your right hand.
  3. Keeping your hips square, lift your right hand off the ground and drive it up toward the ceiling as far as comfortable, rotating your spine to the right at the same time. Allow your gaze to follow your fingertips.
  4. To modify, bend your left leg and rest your knee on the ground.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds.
  6. Switch sides and repeat.

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? Stephanie Solovy, CorePower Yoga instructor, recommends this dynamic stretch.

How to do it: 

  1. Start from a tabletop position on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Curl your toes under and press through your hands and toes to lift your knees away from the mat or floor.
  3. Extend your arms while lifting your hips up and back. Your body should form an inverted “V.”
  4. Lift your right leg, then step your right foot forward and place it on the ground in between your hands.
  5. Anchor your right palm into the mat as you extend your left arm up to the ceiling, twisting your torso to the left as you do so.
  6. Reverse the movement back to starting position.
  7. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Air 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.

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and clasp your hands at your chest.
  2. Slowly bend your knees as you push your hips back to lower toward the floor as if you were going to sit in a chair.
  3. Lower down as far as comfortable, or until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
  4. Pause for a moment at the bottom of your squat.
  5. Press through your heels to return to standing.
  6. Repeat.

Tip: To make this move harder, you can do a jump squat. At bottom of your squat, push through your feet to jump explosively off the ground. “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,” Poulin says.

5. Plank-sphinx warm-up

Give your abs, spine, and booty a boost with this seemingly simple, but totally effective move, according to Solovy.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your stomach, legs together and extended straight behind you and feet pointed.
  2. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and place your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders.
  3. Keep your hands and forearms flat on the ground, and press your forearms into the ground, lifting your head and opening your chest.
  4. Push through your forearms and lift your lower core, hips, and thighs as you push into the top of your feet.
  5. Hold this forearm plank for a few seconds.
  6. Reverse your lower thighs, hips, and lower core, then pull your chest forward back into sphinx pose.
  7. Repeat.

6. Jumping jack

“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.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet together and arms by your side.
  2. Jump up and spread 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.
  3. 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 Solovy recommends.

How to do it: 

  1. Begin standing with your feet and thighs together.
  2. Bend your ankles, knees and hips, as if you were going to sit on an imaginary chair behind you.
  3. Keep your chest lifted and reach your arms overhead.
  4. Then, extend your arms back behind you to turn on your triceps.
  5. Once your arms are behind your back, interlace your hands for a chest expansion.
  6. Draw your hands down toward the ground to open your chest, then fold forward with bound arms.
  7. Bend your elbows and hug them toward one another behind you to open your chest and stretch along your shoulders.
  8. Come back to starting position, then repeat.

8. Pass-through

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, Ligler says.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Grasp a stretch rope, band, towel, or PVC pipe with a wide grip.
  3. With straight arms, pass the rope from your stomach over your head to your lower back.
  4. Repeat, slowly walking your hands closer together as mobility increases.

9. Iron cross

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.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your back and extend your legs to the ceiling with knees bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Stretch your arms wide at your sides ensuring your shoulder blades, spine, and palms are all in contact with the floor.
  3. 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 swing

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.

How to do it:

  1. Lean against a wall with straight arms and extend one leg out in front of you.
  2. Swing your leg back and forth in front of your body laterally a few times—like a golf swing with your leg.
  3. Repeat with opposite leg.

11. Plank pike-up to push-up

Think of these as elevated inchworm push-ups.

How to do it: 

  1. Come down to your hands and knees, place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and walk your feet back behind you to a straight arm plank position.
  2. Your feet should be hip-width apart, with the balls of your feet pressing down to the floor.
  3. Pike your hips up and back (think about pulling the navel up toward your spine) while you press your hands into the floor. Your heels should stay lifted.
  4. Lower your hips back down to a straight arm plank.
  5. Once you’re back in plank position, do a push-up and repeat the whole process 10 times.

Tip: 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 windmill

“These help you warm up through the hamstrings, quadriceps, hips, core muscles, and upper body,” Reed says.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand up and bring your feet out wider than your hips, turning your toes out just slightly.
  2. Extend your arms out to a T-shape, in line with your shoulders.
  3. Hinge forward slightly from your waist as you side lunge to the right, bending your right knee while your left leg stays straight.
  4. At the same time, reach your left hand to your right ankle.
  5. Keep your core engaged to help you keep a long, straight spine even in your hinge.
  6. Then, lunge left (right leg straightens as left knee bends) as you reach your right hand to the left ankle.
  7. Repeat the process for two to three sets of 30 seconds.


1. What are the cons of dynamic stretching?

While there are no real drawbacks to dynamic stretching, it's important to take it slow and not push yourself past your limits. Doing too much too fast could result in injury. Start off gently with fewer reps until you feel comfortable with the moves.

2. Is it better to stretch at night or in the morning?

The best time to stretch is one that works best for your schedule. Stretching in the morning can ease any muscle aches you may have woken up with from the night before, while stretching in the evening relaxes your muscles and primes them for bedtime, according to South Dakota State University. When it comes to dynamic stretching specifically, just make sure to do it before a workout, whenever that is for you.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury. Sports Med. 2007;37(12):1089-99. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200737120-00006. PMID: 18027995.

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