Dynamic Stretching Exercises

5 Pilates Exercises for a Dynamic Workout Warm Up

Research in flexibility continues to show that dynamic stretching is safer and leaves muscles more ready for a workout than static stretching (where a pose is held). In dynamic stretching, movement is continuous, and while it moves into a stretched position, it does not seek to stretch the muscles to their maximum. The idea is to warm and loosen up muscles and joints with movements that are similar to those you will use when you workout.

Below are 5 Pilates exercises that can be used in a dynamic stretching way. Pilates is full-body exercise that develops the body uniformly. These exercise choices reflect a warm up for a workout with that intention. They are appropriate to include in warm ups for Pilates and most types of sports and fitness.

  • For dynamic stretching, keep these ideas in mind:
  • Continuous flow -- the exercises will not not held at any point.
  • Contain the range of motion -- You are looking for full movement but not for extreme endpoints of stretch. Move into a sense of stretch and flow out of it.
  • Warm up requires circulation: This is about getting blood and breath moving through the body to help the muscles prepare for movement so move with the breath and let it be full.

Brief exercise instructions are below. If you are not familiar with an exercise, click through to the detailed instructions. Clicking on a photo will enlarge it. Do 5 - 8 reps of each exercise unless otherwise noted.

Supported Roll Back

Pilates Roll Back
Kolesar Studios

Sit tall on your sit bones with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands behind your thighs.

Lift your belly in and up to deeply curve your spine (that will bring your tail under and upper body forward). Use your abdominal muscles do a controlled the roll back of the torso as it is in a deep curve.
Your shoulders stay down and your hands can help support the roll back.
Deepen the scoop of the belly to roll forward so that your head comes toward your knees.
Press through the sit bones to roll your spine up to sitting tall.

This exercise warms the abdominal muscles and back. This is a lifted scoop so you are not just sinking into your low back, but the low back does open and that is part of the stretch.

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Single Straight Leg Stretch

Pilates Single Straight Leg Stretch
Kolesar Studios
Lie on your back with both legs extended toward the ceiling.

Do an upper ab curl to place your hands behind one thigh, calf, or ankle -- whichever is possible for you. The back of the knee can be soft if you have tight hamstrings.

Scissor the legs away from each other.
Use your hands to help the top leg do two pulses into a little more stretch.
Scissor evenly. This is as much about the bottom leg stretching away as it is about the range of the top leg. (You may not want to work with as much range as shown in the photo here for a warm up.)

Scissor the legs up, changing hands at the top to pulse the top leg toward your face.

This is a dynamic stretch for your hamstrings. It will warm up your hip joints and hip flexors and work your abs.

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Swan Prep

(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Lie on your belly with your forehead on the mat. Your elbows are bent at your sides with your palms on the floor under your shoulders, fingertips forward. Your legs extend behind you -- straight and together.

Lengthen your spine and extend through the top of your head to open your chest, press the palms into the mat, and raise your upper body. Let your shoulder blades slide down your back as you come up.
Your head stays in line with your spine. Don't drop it back.

Inhale to go up, exhale to lengthen down.

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High Clam

Clam is not an exceptionally stretchy exercise but if you work into the hip opening, it helps stretch the adductors, and it is a very good exercise for mobilizing the internal and external rotation of the leg in the hip.

Lie on your side with your knees, hips and shoulders in line. Put your head on an outstretched arm.

Bend your knees almost to 90 degrees.

Put your feet together and lift them off the mat while your knees stay down.

Rotate the top knee open as the feet stay up and together.
The rotation happens from deep inside the hip.

Take the top knee down -- imagine resistance. Open and close the knee 5 - 8 times. Repeat on the other side.

If you feel very tight, try the low clam.

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pilates picture
Pilates Mermaid. Kolesar Studios
Sit with your legs together, folded to the left side so they are stacked.

Raise your right arm overhead so that the upper arm is close to your ear. Let your shoulder stay down.

Lengthen through your spine to reach up and over your knees. This is a long, lifted arc. Your hip stays down. Go directly side, don't twist.

When you are almost to your fullest side-stretch (this is warm up, remember), simultaneously lengthen your spine into the mat and reach up toward the sky to bring yourself upright.

Continue to the other side:
Place that right palm on the mat directly out from your hip. Keep the arm straight. Bring your left arm up by your ear and take a long arcing side stretch over to the right.

Repeat the pattern 2 - 3 times then change the legs to other side. Keep your spine lifted, shoulders relaxed, and the movement flowing with the breath.

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