The Dynamic Warm-up: A Much Better Way Than Static Stretching to Prepare for Movement

Advanced PMR | Fitness | Physical Therapy Due to the physical demand and variety of movements that any sport or activity requires in order to succeed, movement preparation cannot be understated. One cannot just “stretch” before practicing or competing in a game. This will set the athlete up for failure, or worse, injury. This also applies to the adult athlete and weekend warrior.

Static stretching has shown to be effective AFTER activity, but not before. As the article “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation” demonstrates, static stretching can actually reduce peak muscle contraction (aka strength, speed, and power) immediately afterwards. Possibly even several hours. Not only can this impact how effective the athlete will be, but the decreased force production can lead to increased stress placed on the joints and ligaments to do the muscles’ job of stabilizing. This can lead to increased risk of injury.

Now don’t get it wrong, static stretching is not bad for you. There is just a misconception of when it should be performed. Static stretching has been shown to be helpful in improving the flexibility and extensibility of a muscle tissue when performed AFTER exercise. This positive effect of increasing flexibility is because the muscle is already “warmed up” as prior activity has increased blood flow and heated the area. Therefore, the muscle is more willing to stretch. For example, think of the muscle as a piece of cold pizza. When it is cold it is easily pulled apart. However, when heated, the cheese (muscle) stretches easier with less chance of tearing apart when a force is applied to it.

Instead of static stretching at the start of a workout, dynamic stretching (aka dynamic warmup) has been proven to be much more beneficial when performing pre-sport activity in terms of both force production and risk of injury. Light intensity general activity that incorporates full body movements takes the muscles through their ranges of motion while increasing blood flow and the temperature of the muscle. This increase in blood flow and muscle temperature will allow for increased tissue extensibility as well as increased efficiency of muscle contraction. Therefore, dynamic stretching improves muscle force (increased strength, speed, and power) and decreases your risk of straining a muscle due to the increased tissue mobility.

Posted in: Fitness, Health & Wellness, Physical Therapy

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