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Arm stretches before a workout should be dynamic, not of the static variety (pictured).
Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images
If you take a few minutes to warm up instead of simply jumping into your workout, you'll have a more effective session. A warm-up will wake up your neuromuscular system and make your muscles ready to perform. For them to be effective, the arm stretches during a warm-up should be dynamic, meaning they should involve movement.
A dynamic arm stretching warm-up increases blood flow to your upper limbs. As a result, you'll be better able to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles in your arms and shoulders. Stretching exercises stimulate your neuromuscular system. You'll be able to send signals to your muscles more quickly, which means your arms will be able to move faster and produce contractions of greater force. Pre-workout arm stretches are beneficial for cardio workouts like jogging and using an elliptical, along with weight-training workouts and sport performance.
Before you begin your arm stretches take five minutes for light cardio exercise, such as jumping rope or jogging, to get your blood flowing. How extensive your pre-workout arm stretching session needs to be depends on your planned workout. For example, if you're going for a jog, which is predominately lower-body driven, you won't need as many arm stretches as if you're going to be playing baseball or volleyball. The stretches you include in your warm-up should mimic the movements you'll be doing.
Dynamic stretches to warm up your arms include arm circles, arm swings, pendulums and wall pushups. Arm circles are performed by creating large circles at your sides with each of your arms. For arm swings, wrap your arms around you as if giving yourself a hug and then open them up wide. To perform pendulums, bend forward at the waist so your arms hang down to the ground. Swing one arm in a circle at a time, moving it clockwise for a few reps and then counterclockwise. For wall pushups, stand a few feet away from the wall and place your hands on the wall just below shoulder height. Lower your chest toward the wall and then push your body away from it.
Static arm stretches, which involve getting into a position in which your muscles are elongated and then holding that position for time, are not appropriate to use before a workout. Static stretches are effective at improving range of motion, but lull your neuromuscular system to sleep and limit how quickly you're able to send signals to your muscles. Therefore, they'll decrease the performance of your arm muscles during your workout.