A Physical Therapist Wants You to Know These Dynamic Stretches for Warming Up

alex germano bench dips
The Best Dynamic StretchesAlex Germano

Stretching before a workout doesn’t have to be boring. If you’re eager to get your heart rate up and your body moving, try starting off with dynamic warm-up exercises that offer both immediate and long-term benefits. Not only will active stretching work on your flexibility and provide a cardio boost, but an established, consistent routine is proven to reduce stiffness and improve range of motion. Dynamic stretching has also has been found to improve balance in older adults. Below, Alex Germano, P.T., D.P.T., G.C.S., CF-L2, a physical therapist and clinician with FOX Rehabilitation, walks us through the best dynamic stretches for all fitness goals.

Meet the Expert: Alex Germano, P.T., D.P.T., G.C.S., CF-L2, a physical therapist, fitness coach, and clinician with FOX Rehabilitation.

What is a dynamic stretch?

“Dynamic stretches are stretches performed within movement,” explains Germano. “When performing dynamic stretching, a person is actively moving through the stretched position, then back out of it.”

Dynamic stretches vs. static stretches

Static stretches typically involve holding a position for a length of time, Germano says, whereas during dynamic stretches, you quickly hit the stretched position, move out of it, then repeat. Put another way, dynamic stretches are more active than static stretches.

The best dynamic stretches for warming up

Below, Germano details some popular, easy dynamic stretches and how to correctly perform them.

Jumping jacks

woman doing jumping jack outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

They’re not just for grade school gym class—they really work. “Jumping jacks are a full body warm up,” says Germano. They stretch your shoulders and the adductor muscles on the inner thigh, all while increasing heart rate and getting blood flowing, she adds.

How to: Begin standing with your legs together, then simultaneously jump to spread your legs and reach your arms up and out, in an X position. Repeat. “If the coordination of a jumping jack is challenging, consider starting with jumping the legs in and out together first, then adding on the arms,” Germano says. “You may also consider stepping in and out of a jumping jack instead of jumping, if impact isn’t for you.”

Leg swings

trainer doing leg swings outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

“These are helpful for loosening up the front and back of the hip as well as the hamstrings,” says Germano.

How to: Using a wall or furniture for balance, stand on one leg and begin to swing the other front to back. “Start with smaller ranges of motion and work towards larger ones,” says Germano. “Focus on relaxing into the motion versus controlling it too much.”

Lunge twists

trainer doing lunge twists outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

Different from a regular lunge (which we’ll cover later), lunge twists bring a deeper gluteal stretch, Germano says. Plus, the combo motions give them a bit of intensity.

How to: Begin standing, then step forward with one leg and bend at the knee, simultaneously lowering the opposite knee. With elbows out, twist the upper body toward the raised knee, then switch sides. “Use a pad under the knee to reduce discomfort as you twist into the movement,” Germano recommends.

The best dynamic stretches for upper body

Some dynamic stretches are better for upper body warm-ups than others. Here are a few:

Arm circles

trainer doing arm circles outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

Arm circles are a great way to work on shoulder mobility, Germano says.

How To: Extend arms out into a T-shape and rotate them in circular motions, first forward, then backward. “Start with a smaller range of motion and progress to larger ranges of motion as you loosen up,” Germano says.

Chair dips

trainer in gym doing chair dips on bench
Alex Germano

Chair dips improve front of shoulder range of motion in the deltoid and chest areas. They also improve tricep strength.

How to: Using a dining chair or a lifting bench as Germano does above, position the heels of your palms behind you on the bench with legs extended, heels planted firmly on the ground. Slowly lower your bottom toward the ground and before touching it, push yourself back up. “Use your legs as much as needed as you get comfortable with the movement. When you feel ready, extend the legs out or balance on one,” Germano says.


trainer doing inchworms outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

“Inchworms are an effective way to work on hamstring extensibility and shoulder extension,” says Germano. “They are also a wonderful way to warm up the core and arms for any workout ahead.”

How to: Begin standing, and lower your palms to the ground, crawling them out into a push-up position. Do a push-up, then crawl your hands back toward your feet to stand. Repeat. “Widen your stance if you feel too much tightness in the hamstrings,” Germano recommends.

The best dynamic stretches for runners

Pre-run dynamic stretches ideally focus on the lower body to prepare it for distance. Here are some of Germano’s recommendations.

Butt kicks

trainer doing butt kicks outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

“Butt kickers are a great way to stretch the front of the hips with active movement. You will feel a big stretch in the front of hips and quadriceps.”

How to: The name is pretty self explanatory. Run in place and do your best to reach your bum with your heels. “Use upper body support if needed on a countertop,” Germano says. “Start slow and build up to rebounding butt kickers as you improve your impact tolerance.”


trainer doing squats outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

Squats truly hit mobility in every joint in the lower body, Germano says. They stretch the hips, glutes, knees, and calves.

How to: From a standing position, extend arms in front of you and lower your bottom, keeping your back straight. “Focus on sitting straight down versus sitting backwards,” Germano says. “Sitting straight down will help stretch all of the joints of the lower extremities. Focus on looking straight ahead at a target in front of you.”

High knees

trainer doing high knees outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

“High knees will stimulate a cardiovascular response as well as warm up the entire lower extremities, down to the feet,” Germano says. “Specifically, you will get a gluteal and hamstring stretch, and work on the extensibility of the calf muscles and feet.”

How to: Position yourself to run in place, and instead, lift your knees as high as possible with each stride. “Feel free to hold on to something for balance. Also consider starting slow to test how impact feels on your body, then progress speed,” Germano says.

Lateral lunges

trainer doing lateral lunges outside in front of garage
Alex Germano

Lateral lunges help stretch out the inner thigh area and are a great exercise to work on gluteal strength.

How to: Begin standing, and step one leg out to the side, bending at the knee and lowering the entire body from center toward the ground. Keep your arms tucked in a squared-up position to maintain form. Then stand back up and switch sides. “Try and focus on keeping one leg straight as the other is bending in order to get the best stretch,” Germano suggests.

Benefits of dynamic stretches

Dynamic stretching provides the double whammy of loosening up stiff areas while also getting your heart pumping a little bit, Germano says. “This helps warm multiple body parts at once and helps you feel ready for whatever activity is next,” she adds. “Dynamic stretching can also involve coordination and balance which are added bonuses to the general loosening of joints and muscles.”

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