Using the Incorrect Stretching Method Can Decrease Your Performance
We all grew up knowing the importance of a decent warm up routine with stretching. What we didn’t know back then was that static stretching (by holding an arm or leg in a certain stretched position over time) wasn’t the best way to prepare for an activity. In this series we will take an in depth look at different stretching modes and which method best suits your activity and sport preference.
What Is the Ideal Way of Stretching before Workout?
The ideal way to stretch before a workout is a dynamic mode of stretching. Dynamic stretches are stretches with controlled movements. They involve movements that resemble the actions and exercises one would perform during the workout session. We can also say that dynamic stretches are in fact mobility drills. An own body weight squat that has minimal resistance is a great example of dynamic stretch that can be done in preparation for a workout when a weighted back squat is incorporated as the main compound movement in the workout.
In dynamic stretches the joint isn’t challenged to a point far beyond what you are capable of achieving. This means that when done safely and properly there is no ‘over-stretching’ being done and thus no power, speed, and strength loss in the fibers recruited for the activity. Over stretching typically associated with static stretching before a workout can lead to strength, power, and speed loss. This occurs usually when engaging in static stretching before an exercise (more about static stretching pros and cons in the next article). Dynamic stretches before a workout increases your ability to recruit strength and power associated muscle groups and abilities.
The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching benefits us in the following ways:
- Increases blood flow – this improves reaction time, improved recovery between sets and reps, and improved training time so that you can achieve your goals sooner. This also removal of waste products generated by training and lifestyle are also improved. Dynamic stretching can increase exercise-assisted hormones in building muscle and utilizing energy from fat which can, in turn, promote glycogen sparing to increase performance.
- Warms up a whole group of muscles – Most dynamic stretches are done in a standing up position, this engages the core as you need to maintain your balance with other synergistic / assisting muscles. This saves time and enables the body to warm up effectively much quicker. A standing leg swing is a good example – by kicking the leg back, you activate the gluteus, hamstrings and also stretch the hip flexors.
- Increase proprioception – your body’s ability to react to the tension placed on your body by the surrounding environment. As you engage in regular dynamic stretches your body’s ability to adapt to the strains will improve, so will your coordination. As this skill improves, more and more stimuli are needed to increase improvements. That’s why we take so much please in continuously changing your warm-up and intensity of your program.
There is just about 3000 articles currently published regarding the benefits of dynamic stretching as part of a warm up. In a large majority of these clinical and performance trials there is enough evidence that suggest the following additional benefits:
- Improve running performance and vertical as well as horizontal jumping performance.
- Further improves the temperature related benefits of a general warm up, thus an additional warm up of dynamic only movements added to a normal warm up routine further improves the benefits associated with a normal warm up.
- Incorporates a large amount of different joints together in a single warm up sequence in multiplanar approaches typically associated with a sport.
- Are extremely time efficient as a lot of sub maximal work is done in just a few minutes.
- Muscles do not relax during a warm up and are continuously worked through a range of motion. Whereas with normal static and hold stretches it’s proven that a muscle loses heat and core temperature ultimately resulting in less performance.
- Can be a combination of many different movements, and thus steer away from a monotonous warm up approach, as a coach this last point is gold!
Studies Support the Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
An interesting find during the study: PMID: 32790575, they discovered that patients with runners knee who have inflexible hamstrings, dynamic hamstring stretching with strengthening exercises was superior for improving muscle activation time and clinical outcomes compared with static hamstring stretching with strengthening exercises.
Another very well conducted study – PMID: 19855310, the effect of warm-ups involving static or dynamic stretching on agility, sprinting, and jumping performance in trained individuals showed participants that were either professional or national level elite athletes who trained 6-8 times a week with each session lasting approximately 90 minutes.
Based on these findings and the literature, trained individuals who wish to implement static stretching should include an adequate warm-up and dynamic sport-specific activities with at least 5 or more minutes of recovery before their sport activity.
Dynamic Stretching Is Ideal for Every Warm Up Routine
This shows once again that different stretch modes are ideal and every rewarding and sufficient warm up routine simply has to include a dynamic section for performance and safety.
Here is a very handy dynamic warm up routine for a total body preparation as it involves the core, upper body push , upper body pull and lower extremity muscle groups. a general guideline for a rewarding dynamic routine :
- 5 to 10 reps per move in one place or over a short distance,
- Progressively increase the range of motion per set,
- Increase the speed of motion with every set,
- Consciously contract the muscles as you move them.
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