This simple (and quick) dynamic stretching routine is a great warm-up routine designed to increase flexibility, get your heart rate up, activate the nervous system and get your muscles firing.
Recent studies have suggested that a warm-up designed to minimise impairments and enhance performance should be composed of sub-maximal intensity aerobic activity followed by large amplitude dynamic stretching and sport-specific dynamic activity.
What do this mean?
Aerobic activity involves activity that increases your heart rate. Examples would include doing a light jog or brisk walk. For equestrians the act of getting your horse ready to ride includes some degree of aerobic activity. Get your heart rate up by giving your horse a really thorough groom before you saddle up, or do a couple of minutes of jogging or brisk walking as you collect your tack.
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching that incorporates movement. It involves taking the limb from its neutral position to the end of its range, placing the muscles on stretch, then returning back to the original position. This should be carried out in a smooth, controlled manner, with the action being repeated for a specific period of time or number of repetitions.
Sport-specific dynamic activity basically involves doing exercises that will closely mimic what you will do once you start playing your sport. For riders, examples may include performing some squats or calf raises before climbing into the saddle.
Dynamic stretches to incorporate into your pre-riding routine
Try these 4 dynamic stretches before you ride to help improve your range of motion and to activate the muscles required to keep you balanced in the saddle.
1. Leg swings - this is a great dynamic stretch for the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and hip flexors. For this exercise you may want to balance yourself by holding onto something stable with one hand. Swing the opposite leg forwards and then backwards, keeping your trunk upright throughout the movement. Aim for 30 seconds on each leg.
2. Lunge with rotation - this targets the glutes, hip flexors and calves. Lunge forward with your right foot, keeping your knee over your toes and tracking out slightly to stay in line with your 4th toe. At the same time rotate your trunk to the right. Stand back up and repeat to the other side. Complete 8 reps each leg.
3. Open the Gate - a hip opening stretch that targets the adductors or groin muscles and glutes. To start, raise your right knee up while balancing on your left leg. 'Open the gate' by rotating the leg out and away from your body. Return to the starting position and lower back to the floor. Repeat with your left leg. Aim for 8 reps each leg.
4. Arm circles - a dynamic stretch for the shoulders and upper back. To begin, bring your arms out in front of you then raise above your head, taking them then out to the side in a circular motion. Repeat for 10 reps.