By: Kira Davies, DPT, SCS
A warm-up is the act of preparing an athlete both mentally and physically for exercise or sporting event. Athletes tend to each have their own pre-participation regimen that they have settled into and find useful in developing an individual sense of readiness for the activity at hand. The benefits of incorporating a dynamic stretching warm-up approach will be discussed below and may be an integral addition promoting injury prevention and performance improvement.
Dynamic stretching involves active movements of a muscle that bring forth a stretch, but are not held in the end position. Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch. By stretching muscles through movements similar to ones that occur during athletic competition, the joints and muscles may become more accustomed to the movements and less likely to become injured. Incorporation of dynamic stretching into a training regimen may serve to prepare the body for the optimal athletic performance. Other types of stretching include static and ballistic, and will be discussed later.
By stretching muscles through movements similar to ones that occur during athletic competition, the joints and muscles may become more accustomed to the movements and less likely to become injured. Incorporation of dynamic stretching into a training regimen may also serve to prepare the body for the optimal athletic performance.
These warm-up programs have a more dynamic approach…
- Focus more on the neuromuscular system of the muscle complex
- Movement specific activities aide in short term flexibility gains
- Active stretching has potential to reduce injury though decreasing reflexive muscle contractions
When appropriately performed, dynamic stretching has been found to balance muscle tension throughout the body to prepare the joints and muscle for activity. In doing so, stretching and active warm-up can help reduce the likelihood of certain types of injuries, specifically muscle strains. This stretching technique can be useful before aerobic exercise, sports participation, and competition, and has been shown to reduce muscle tightness. The most recent scientific studies seem to suggest that dynamic stretches before competition are preferable to static stretches. This may be particularly true for strength and power athletes.
Not only is there a role in injury prevention, but research suggests dynamic stretching may improve performance in the following activities…
- Sprint performance
- Agility Drills
- Penalty Kick Speed
- Jump Performance
Dynamic Warm-up should:
- Be performed for 10-20 minutes
- Be performed for 60 seconds/dynamic stretch with 1 stretch cycle every 2 seconds
- Include preparation of all joints and major muscle groups (shoulders, elbows, torso/trunk, hips, knees, ankles
- Include motions specific to the sport or activity
- Ex) tennis: lateral motion of the legs, anterior/posterior of the upper body, rotation of the torso/trunk
- Ex) baseball: consider the different needs of the catcher vs. pitcher
- Include tri-planar motions
Technique may be dependent on the age of the athlete, current physical condition, prior exercise experience, and gender.
Static Stretching refers to traditional techniques where stretches are performed with a prolonged hold and used to increase the length of soft tissue and the flexibility of a specific muscle. This type of stretch has the most profound effect on a specific tissue known as collagen. Collagen is the cellular framework found in our muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Recent research suggests that static stretches have a neuromuscular effect on the muscle’s performance and may slightly decrease strength in the stretched muscle group for up to one hour. Static stretching still absolutely has its place, and is an important aspect of an athlete’s overall health. Static stretches help to reduce injury by maximizing flexibility and improving biomechanics. Static stretching may be most useful and beneficial after activity and should be performed consistently (every day!) to increase and maintain muscle length and flexibility.
Ballistic Stretching involves rapid stretches that are often associated with bouncing motions. These stretches should be used with caution as muscle strains can occur due to activation of the stretch reflex- causing the muscle being stretched to contract. This type of stretching is not recommended in youth athletics/sports and is also not recommended for injury rehabilitation.
There are many ways that athletes prepare for their sport or competition. Consider incorporating a dynamic warm-up approach into your pre-participation regimen. Your body will thank you!
Additional resources and sport specific routines may be found below:
FIFA- 11: developed by FIFA’s medical research center (F-MARC)
The 6 Characteristics of a Good Dynamic Warm-up: Eric Cressey
Ready to Play: The Dynamic Warm-Up
Available through Duke Sports Medicine, DUKEHealth.org
YouTube Video References:
1) Sample Dynamic Warm-Up: Football
2) Sample Dynamic Warm-Up: Soccer
3) Sample Dynamic Warm-Up: Track & Field
4) Sample Dynamic Warm-Up: Baseball