Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Warm-Up

By Matthew Leeds

MS, ATC, LAT

We have all seen the weekend warriors warm-up. Prior to a pick-up basketball game, people can been seen stretching their calves against a wall or grabbing their ankle and pulling their leg back to stretch their thighs a couple of times. Is that enough? Has that person properly performed a warm-up to prevent injury? The short answer to that question is “no”.

Think of your muscles as an elastic band.  If they are warmed up, they will have more elasticity causing them to stretch and bend easier. If you put an elastic band in the freezer it will become stiff, resulting in less elasticity. When stiff, the band is more prone to snapping if moved or stretched too far. In terms of your muscles, this can equate to a muscle strain. The goal of this article is to show you the benefits of a dynamic warm-up versus the traditional static stretching program in preparing for an athletic event.

Over the past few years, numerous studies have shown that prior to exercise and competition, an extensive dynamic warm-up is more beneficial for sports participation and injury prevention than the traditional static stretching approach. A dynamic warm-up mimics the movements done in sports. These movements activate your nervous system and muscles, preparing them to fire more efficiently.  This improves sports performance along with the readiness to meet the demands of each individual sport.

Static stretching is generally done in one plane of motion like straight ahead or side to side.  Conversely a dynamic warm-up is done using active movements in multiple planes of motion. Are there any sports you can think of that are done in one plane of motion? Even though sprinting may be done moving straight ahead, your body from foot to hip is moving in multiple planes. Since this is the case, why wouldn’t we warm up to meet the demands of multi-plane motion required in all activities?

Tradition is the answer. For years it was accepted that static stretching was the best because that is what everyone did prior to an activity. However recent research has begun to challenge these beliefs.  We now know that active movements are the best when getting ready for sports participation. These dynamic warm-ups are sport-specific to the activity, thus mimicking postures and positions that the person will be engaging in during their sport and/or activity.  Conversely, the traditional static stretching approach might actually decrease power output and ultimately performance.  Additionally, injuries may result from pre-activity static stretching routines due to an alteration in the muscle firing patterns.  These alterations can result in a delay in specific muscle contractions that are needed to execute the activity correctly and efficiently. If a better warm-up and increased flexibility are the goals, think of the elastic band. Will the band stretch better when it’s cold before exercise, or when it’s warm immediately following exercise?  Think about an activity specific dynamic warm-up prior to engaging in your next sport or recreational event.

Matthew Leeds is an Athletic Trainer at Integrated Rehabilitation Services clinic in Ellington and is the Athletic Trainer for Ellington High School. For any further questions, you can contact Matt at the Ellington Clinic (860.872.7500) or mleeds@integrehab.com

 

 

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