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Dynamic Warm-ups vs. Static Stretching

We are starting to approach the fall, which means fall sports are beginning as well!  With this in mind, at PT360, we start to turn our attention towards how we can best prepare our body for this change in activity level and what we can do to facilitate this transition. You may be wondering, what is the best way to prepare the body for optimal performance as well as minimize risk of injury when returning to playing sports? Is it best to perform prolonged stretches? Or is it better to stretch dynamically?

 

Traditionally, stationary stretching with prolonged holds has been a routine part of practice and pre-game warm-ups. However, when we are stretching statically, we are not appropriately preparing the body for motion because we are not moving.  Studies have shown that stationary stretches negatively influence performance outcomes specifically in muscle strength, power production, agility, vertical jump height, sprint speed, etc. when compared to performing dynamic warm-ups.

 

This is not to say that static stretching is bad for the body.  It can be a very useful exercise for preparing the body for every-day activities, as well as good to preform after working out when the body is already warm. When we want to prepare for higher level performance, it is important to warm up dynamically to help prepare the body for dynamic motion.

 

Dynamic warm-ups may also play an important role in injury prevention.  Research has shown that dynamic stretching helps increase the oxygen delivery system to the muscles, thus resulting in enhanced reaction time and improved performance outcomes. This enhancement in reaction time can make a difference when in the heat of competition and can help reduce the risk of injury during game play.

 

Below is an example of a dynamic warm up routine. Different sports will require different kinds of warm up routines depending on the area of the body that your sport dictates, but this is a good example of a general dynamic warm up.  You can perform these while walking or jogging forward for 15-20 feet.

  • Straight leg kicks - step forward and kick leg in front of you with knee straight
  • Butt kicks - kick leg backwards, bending the knee bringing your heel towards your butt
  • High knees - light jogging forward, bringing knees up towards the chest
  • Walk with forward sweep - take a step forward, planting the heel down with toes pointed upward, then reach down towards your foot
  • Adductor lunge stretch - Step to the side and bend the leading knee until you feel a stretch in the inner thigh, then step the feet together
  • Forward lunges - step forward and bend knees to sink down, then step the feet together
  • Squat jumps - bend knees while keeping back straight and jump up out of the squat position

 

All in all, it is Important to be prepared when returning to sports and stretching dynamically for a warm-up has been shown to allow you to perform at the highest level!  So, get out there, have fun, and stay safe!!