By Dr. Tom Kleeman, an orthopedic surgeon and creator of MDFitness: The Doctors Workout, a 3-DVD workout available at TheDoctorsWorkout.com.
Your alarm goes off. You pry your eyes open, swing your legs over the side of the bed, and take those first morning steps. That’s when the real alarms go off. Your back and joints cry out in anguish. For a moment you are frozen like the rusty Tin Man wondering how to lubricate all of those joints. You remember reading somewhere that it was important to stretch in the morning, but what does that mean exactly?
For years static stretching has been the mainstay of the early morning routine. As it turns out, research doesn’t support a benefit from static stretching. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, has been shown to have many benefits including warming up your muscles, increasing blood flow, and jump-starting your metabolism. The idea is to obtain the most benefit in the least time using compound exercises that work multiple joints or muscle groups at the same time. Check out these four dynamic stretches and see for yourself. It’s like having a can of lubricating oil at your bedside.
High March with Arm Swings
This is a great beginning move. It’s easy on your joints while warming up both the upper and lower body. Start by marching in place bringing your knees up higher as your hips warm up. At the same time, stretch your arms out to the side and bring them forward wrapping them around your chest then back out in the tempo of the march. Keep going for about 30 seconds. This exercise gets your hips, shoulders, and chest warmed up and limber.
Alternating Upright Toe Touches
Start with your arms straight out to the side. Begin by flexing your right hip with the knee extended while trying to touch the right toe with the left hand. Now return the arm and leg to the beginning position and do the same move on the other side. Keep alternating for 30 seconds. In the beginning just go part way and allow your range of motion to increase as you feel comfortable. This is a great way to loosen the hamstrings which become tighter as we age. It is also a great balance move.
Cross Country Skier
Now that we have warmed up your hip flexors, it’s time to mobilize the glutes or hip extensors. You want to start by bending slightly at the waist with the hips and knees slightly flexed. Now begin by extending one leg back in a pendulum type motion while swinging the opposite arm forward. You are now balanced on the other leg. Bring the arm and leg back to the beginning position and do the same move on the opposite side. Alternate back and forth like a skier and feel the smooth, rhythmic tempo. Again, go for about 30 seconds.
Da Vinci Man
We named this move after the famous drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci. This warms up the lateral shoulder muscles, known as the deltoids, and the hip abductors. Start in the standing position with the arms at your side. Now begin by swinging one leg directly out to the side while swinging the opposite arm out at the same time. Come back to neutral and repeat on the other side. Alternate back and forth for 30 seconds.
In less than the time required to brew the coffee, you have mobilized all of the important joints and muscles in that stiff body of yours. You should feel better already. Now hit the shower and seize the day!