Dynamic flexibility is the ROM (range of motion) one can acheive during active movements. Since all of our movements are active in aerial arts it’s imperative to work on our dynamic flexibility.

dynamic flexibility

The dynamic flexibility movements we will be going through today are not only good for aerialists, but they are also well suited to rockclimbers, martial artists and gymnasts all perform dynamic flexibility movements.

What Is Flexibility?

Flexibility is defined by the Dictionary of Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine as “The range of movement around a joint;”

There are two main types of flexibility. 

1.  Dynamic Flexibility: “The ROM (range of motion) during active movements.”

2.  Static Flexibility: “The ROM around a joint.”

What Is Dynamic Flexibility?

dynamic flexibility

“Dynamic Flexibility is the flexibility displayed during movement.” A great example of dynamic flexibility would be the range of movement of a karate kick. Or the range of motion in the shoulder when a pitcher throws the ball.  “Dynamic flexibility (also called kinetic flexibility) is the ability to perform dynamic (or kinetic) movements of the muscles to bring a limb through its full range of motion in the joints.”

Active Flexibility

“It is another form of Dynamic flexibility being: The ability to assume and maintain extended positions using only the tension of the agonist and synergist muscles whilst stretching the antagonist’s muscles.” An example would be a ballerina extending her leg in arabesque and holding the position in the air without external support. 

Passive Flexibility

Is the ability to assume extended positions and then maintain them using only your weight, the support of your limbs, or some other apparatus (such as a chair or a barre). ” An example of this would be the splits on the floor.

Does Dynamic Stretching Improve Flexibility?

Yes, it improves your dynamic flexibility, which is what you predominantly use in aerial.

Which Areas Should I Focus On?

Most people want a range of flexibility in all three areas. Many aerialists can do the splits on the floor but when they take flight in air and do not have their body weight coupled with gravity to passively move them deeper in their split.  It is also common to see a bent back knee in a front split as the dynamic strength has not been developed to straighten the back leg in the air. 

Depending on your goals you will need to focus on different types of flexibility to best support your desired outcome. For optimal flexibility, use methods that implement all levels and methods of flexibility. 

You may be wondering why we will be implementing exercises to increase passive flexibility when this manual is geared to athletes that use active and dynamic flexibility such as aerialists, gymnasts, and rock climbers. The simple answer to that is that while we need to increase our range of movement during kinetic movements. If our joint structure is tight or suffering from scar tissue it can impact our dynamic flexibility. The art of Yoga is a solid advocate of releasing all tension off the skeletal system using active and passive flexibility methods. How? By working on our muscles, tendons and connective tissue. 

Therefore it is imperative to work on our flexibility in all ranges. 

Factors That Influence Flexibility:

dynamic flexibility

1. Joint Structure

As previously discussed joint structure and health can impact the degree of the range of movement. 

The anatomy of a joint regulates its ROM and is imperative to the degree of range of movement that is possible within the joint. 

Ball and socket joints offer a range of motion in all anatomical planes on the body thus offering the greatest ROM. These joints include the hips and shoulders.

Ellipsoidal joint: The ellipsoid joint has two planes of movement, although it allows opposition movement to a small degree. ROM includes allowing flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, and circumduction.

Hinge joints are the most limiting as they only move on one plane of the body. These joints include the knee and elbow. 

Therefore we can only work towards the maximum degree of flexibility in the anatomical planes that supports the joints range of motion.

2. Connective Tissues

“Our Connective tissue is materials made up of fibers forming a framework and support structure for body tissues and organs.” 

These connective tissues include Tendons, fascial sheaths, joint capsules, and skin. Connective tissues embody plasticity. This means that they can adopt a new and greater length after a passive stretch.  This is one of the main reasons I am so against any passive stretching what so ever before an aerial class. The last thing you want to do is increase the length of your connective tissue and then load it with your weight. This is a recipe for injury, tears and overstretched ligaments.

There are several factors that affect the health of connective tissue. These are Previous injuries, age, and activity level. 

3. Previous Injuries

The health of a joint, muscle or connective tissue will affect its range of movement. 

Previous injuries can affect the elasticity of muscle tissue due to scar tissue and the lack of oxygen in the blood known as hypoxemia.  The four main causes of tension in facia or scar tissue: Repetitive movement, Stress, Injury, and Inactivity.

Scar tissue is connective tissue forming a scar. It is composed chiefly of fibroblasts in recent scars and largely dense collagenous fibers in old scars. The denser the scarring the more limited the ROM is.

4. Age and Gender

As we age our body goes through a process called fibrosis. This is when degenerating muscle fibers are replaced with the thickening and scarring of connective tissue. Hence affecting the plasticity of our connective tissues and limiting the ROM.

5. Muscle Bulk

Muscle bulk can affect the ROM by restricting the ROM of a joint. Depending on your athletic goals you may have to consider the optimal trade-off of muscle mass to flexibility. Large amounts of fatty tissue can also increase the same limitations on the joints ROM. This is why dancers, gymnasts, and yogis aim for long lean powerful muscles.  

6. Activity Level

Inactivity of certain muscles or joints can cause chemical changes in connective tissue which restrict flexibility. I personally know how tight my hips get during pregnancy while the ROM is limited. 

Why Do A Dynamic Warm-Up?

Dynamic flexibility warm-ups prepares the body for the movements that you will be doing in your exercise routine. This is done by increasing blood and oxygen to the muscles and it wakes the nervous system up. The increase in body temperature also makes the muscles more pliable.

How Long Should A Warm-Up Last?

A good warm-up should last for ten minutes. You want to ensure that you get that blood pumping into the muscles to make them more pliable.

24 Warm-Up Stretches For Dynamic Flexibility & Increased ROM Video Guide

24 Stretches For Dynamic Flexibility Written Guide

Neck Rolls

How to:

  • Drop your chin to the center of your chest.
  • Gently bring the chin to the right shoulder.
  • Then the left.
  • Continue with this movement creating half rainbows.
  • Bring your chin to the ceiling and drop your head.
  • Ensure that the chin remains in the centerline of the body.
  • Gently roll the neck so that the ear comes to the shoulder.
  • Repeat.
  • Gently draw rainbows with the back of the skull.
  • Once you have warmed up both sides connect them together.
  • Making a circle with your chin and base of the skull.

Shoulder Rolls

How to:

  • Gently draw the shoulders towards the ears.
  • From this position begin to draw a half-circle with your shoulders until you meet the bottom of the half-circle.
  • Your shoulders should be depressed in this position.
  • Bring the shoulders in an external half-circle movement until they reach the starting position.

Arm Circles

How to:

  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift your arms to the sides at shoulder height, palms down.
  • Make 10 to 20 circles with your arms, moving from small to large.
  • Repeat in the other direction.

Elbow Circles

How to:

  • With your hands out to the sides.
  • Draw circles with your elbow joints.

Wrist Circles

How to:

  • With your arms out in front of you.
  • Draw circles with your wrists.

Shoulder Extensions

How to:

  • For this movement, you will need a stretch band. You can find my recommendations here.
  • With your arms out in front of you, wrists in line with shoulders.
  • Grab your stretch band with both hands.
  • Extend the arm horizontally.
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Now move your hands so that the stretch band is vertical shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend the arms vertically.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Bring the hands to a horizontal position shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend the arms.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Repeat horizontally on the other side of the body.

Shoulder With Strap Rotations

How to:

  • Holding your strap wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bring your hands in front of your body wrists in line with shoulders.
  • With straight arms gently bring the strap up and over the head.
  • Continue to take the arms as far back as you can.
  • If you find a sticky spot take the time to stay there for a minute.

Torso Twists

How to:

  • Standing straight with feet hip-width apart.
  • Rotate your spine as if you are trying to look behind you.
  • Twist as far as you can.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Rolling Ups and down the spine reaching between the legs

How to:

  • Gently bring your chin to the chest.
  • Gently allow your body to fold down to the floor.
  • Vertebrae by vertebrae.
  • If you can reach the floor continue to walk the hands underneath your legs.
  • Gently arise the way you decended.


How to:

  • From a downward dog position.
  • Walk your hands out until you come into a plank position.
  • Walk your feet back to your hands so that you are once again in a downward dog position.
  • Repeat.

Russian Twists

How to:

  • Sitting in a V position.
  • Rotate the body to touch the area on the floor a little further than either side of the outer hip.
  • To make it harder extend the legs all the way out.
  • To make it easier, keep the knees bent and feet on the floor.

Log Jumps

How To:

  • You will need a chair or a CrossFit square for this exercise.
  • With your hands on the chair jump from left to right.

Standing Hip Rotations

How to:

  • From standing position feet hip-width apart.
  • Bring the knee up to meet the inner hip.
  • Continue to take the knee through a full range of motion.
  • Think drawing rainbows with your knees.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Walking Lunges

How to:

  • From a standing position with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Bring one foot in front of you.
  • Keep the core engaged. This gives you balance.
  • Bend the knees until your thigh and knee make a right angle.
  • Keep the front foot and knee parallel.

Front Leg Kicks

How to:

  • From a standing position.
  • Kick one leg in front of you while keeping the knee straight and the leg extended.
  • Ground the foot and bring the back foot through to kick on the opposite side.
  • Repeat until you have walked the length of the room.

Side Leg Kicks

How to:

  • Using a balancing point. It could be a chair, wall, dining table.
  • Kick the leg up in a horizontal line.
  • Keep the legs extended.
  • Repeat 20 times.
  • Repeat on the other side.


How to:

  • Standing with our balancing tool (used above).
  • Draw the leg up in front of you with the knee straight.
  • Continue to take the leg around in a full range of motion.
  • This should look like you are drawing rainbows with your toes.
  • Remember to keep those toes pointed.

Sumo Side Squats

How to:

  • From a standing position.
  • Take a large step to the side of your body.
  • Bring your hips to the floor by bending the front knee and extending the back leg.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Dancers Flat Back

How to:

  • From a standing position with the feet more than hip-width apart.
  • Turn towards the right with a flat back.
  • Head in line with shoulders in line with the hips.
  • Imagine planking the upper body at a 3oclock position.
  • Fold at the hips let your arms hang.
  • If you can start to walk your hands through your legs.
  • Rise to the left hip.
  • Head in line with shoulders in line with the hips.
  • Imagine planking the upper body at a 9oclock position.
  • Return to center.

Running On The Spot

You have this one down pat. No need for instruction.

Bum kicks

How to:

  1. Continue running on the spot.
  2. Tap your bum with the heel of the foot on each step.

Calf Raises

How to:

  1. Standing upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Raise your heels off the floor.
  3. Lower the heels to the floor.
  4. Repeat.

Ankle Rolls

How to:

  1. Standing with one foot flat and other foot with the heel raised.
  2. The raised foot will be the foot used for this exercise.
  3. Gently rotate the ankle in circular movements.
  4. Rotate on the other side.

Enjoy! Which areas of the body are you trying to increase your dynamic flexibility? Drop them in the comments below I would love to hear them.

In happiness and health,

Vanessa Barthelmes

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