Dynamic stretching vs static stretching
By Talia Kruger
Winter sports are well and truly in full swing! Whether you're playing competitively, socially or coaching your child's Saturday morning soccer games, a good warm up routine should be a pivotal part of your game day. Over the past few years, there has been hot debate when it comes to the pre-game warm up routine.
What type of pre-exercise stretch provides the most benefits?
I'm sure we all remember the days when our pre-game stretching routine consisted of some static stretches, held for at least half a minute, followed by heading straight out onto the field or court. Perhaps this is what you continue to do?
Recent research has shown that performing this type of stretching directly prior to physical activity can actually cause harm. Long hold stretches can decrease strength in those stretched muscles and can increase your risk of injury. It is believed that this harm is due to:
- A drop in the muscle temperature and blood flow as the stretch requires for you to hold still, discouraging the need for blood circulation at that time.
- An inhibitory response between the nerve and muscle fibre tissues. This reflex response stops the muscles ability to fire for 30-60 minutes post-stretch, l actually leaving your muscle less elastic and not as powerful.
The buzz word: Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching, as the name suggests, means your body continuously moves throughout the warm-up. In addition to increasing the core temperature of your muscles and increasing the blood flow ready for exercise, there are great effects on your joints. Taking your joints and muscles through challenging and repetitive motions allows your body to go further into range with each repetition.
No need to debate further! Here are some tips when employing dynamic stretching before your next bout of exercise. Make the movements specific for your exercise or sport and have fun with it. You'll see some crazy pre-run, pre-game movements in those pro athletes.
Make the movements sport-specific. Mimic different movements and positions your body is likely to perform. For example: AFL or soccer players would benefit more from leg swings, side stepping, knees to chest, kicking back heels or lunges to get their muscles lengthening. These are the same actions regularly performed throughout their match.
Be posturally aware. Practice mindfulness when it comes to your posture within your sport-specific warm up moves. Watch how you 'posture stack', starting with a great pelvic foundation and tall stacked ribs, trunks and necks. Find that balance and efficiency in your movements before your game or run begins.
Become more mentally prepared. Being mentally prepared is just as important as being in top physical condition. Our body and mind are so intricately connected that to achieve a good result, both areas have to be in sync. Dynamic stretching improves this connection as you are constantly moving. You are able to visualise the game or exercise ahead while you are warming up. Holding a static stretch before you start can cause a relaxation response, rather than an energising one.
Prevent injury. This one seems pretty obvious - the main reason any of us stretch is because we want reduce our injury risk. By performing dynamic movements you are increasing your functional range of movement around your joints. In the short term it is preparing your body for the high-intensity movements to come. Over time this leads to increased performance and can keep overuse injuries at bay.
Static stretching: is there still a place for this?
Holding a static stretch for 30-60 seconds, with focus on breathing will allow that muscle to relax and elongate. This still holds benefits for your body. These are better performed after exercise to increase flexibility, as a break from your desk or in your rehabilitation or maintenance settings.
Think about adding in dynamic stretching into your warm-up routine today - your body will thank you for it!
Check out these youtube links for sport specific dynamic stretch routines.
- Watch Novak Djokovic warming up before his tennis match for some ideas.
- 5 simple stretches for jogging and running. Use these for field sport also.
- For some really cool and crazy stretching ideas for all sports.