The days of traditional stretching right before games, practices, and workouts are over. Time to learn about dynamic warmups.
So you understand how to use static stretching to increase your flexibility, but what should you be doing right before games, practices, and workouts to really maximize your performance and decrease your chances of injury? You should be doing dynamic stretches (also called a dynamic warm up). Walk into any collegiate weight room, gym, or sports field in America and you’ll see the athletes doing things like walking knee hugs, lateral lunges and inverted toe touches right before competition. Why? Because if you’re looking to perform at your best you’ve got to warm up properly.
The thought process behind dynamic stretching stems from the term “functional flexibility.” Basically, if a static stretch is intended to add length to the muscle and increase the available range of motion at a joint, dynamic stretching improves your capacity to perform athletic movements by increasing your blood flow and heart rate. Knowing its importance, let’s discuss how you can start incorporating it into your training program.
What is dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching (or active stretching) is a process of actively moving a joint or joints through a safe, full range of motion with the intent of improving the joint’s functional capacity for movement. A good dynamic warm-up is multidirectional, challenges mobility, stability and coordination, and gets your body temperature elevated before a competition or practice.
What are the benefitsof dynamic stretching?
In addition to preparing your body for high intensity movements like HIIT by elevating your core and muscle temperature, dynamic stretching helps you add flexibility in the areas you need it (ankles, hips, middle back), and resistance to motion in other areas (knee, lower back). From a neural perspective (your body’s control system), dynamic warm-ups stimulate your speed-specific flexibility, as well as your stretch reflex, which is how your body stores and releases energy for explosive, powerful movements like jumping and sprinting.
Where do I include stretching in my plan?
Dynamic stretching, like any good functional warm-up, should be done right before a practice, competition, or training session. However, they’re so beneficial you should think about doing them on your off days too. Dynamic stretching routines are a great way to decrease soreness, promote recovery, and get off your butt!
What is a good routine to begin with?
In the below video I demonstrate the routine I use with my athletes. Perform each movement for five reps per side, or 15 yards with things like skips. Be sure to work on controlling your body, and make sure to keep the lower back flat and the core under control at all times. Last but not least, be patient! You’re not going to realize the same benefits if you rush through these, so take your time, do them slowly, and get better.