Warming up first instead of stretching before a training session or a race whether it is running, swimming, cycling etc…Your body needs to be ready.
Your muscles need to be warm. While stretching is an important part of the cool down it does not help you warm up and get ready to train or race. When doing a static stretch the muscles actually produce less force after static stretching then they did before static stretching.
Think of your muscles like a rubber band. If you hold it in a stretched position it won’t spring back as quickly as it did before. Traditional static stretching relaxes and cools down the muscles instead of activating them.
Whether you are new to a physical activity or a seasoned participant properly integrating a warm-up and a cool down into your work out should be a priority
Warming up and Dynamic Stretching benefits can include:
1. It can help increase oxygen supply to your muscles by dilating your blood vessels and increasing blood flow.
2. It can increase your internal core body temperature to help your muscles be more flexible and efficient.
3. It can slowly raise your heart rate to help with the stress of training, racing, or whatever physical activity you may be doing.
4. It can also help prevent injury during physical activity and help maximize performance.
The way you can achieve this is by doing what is called a Dynamic Stretch after a warm up. What is a Dynamic Stretch? Dynamic Stretching are active movements of muscle that bring a stretch and not held in the end position. The opposite if this is static stretching where you hold a stretch for a length of time. But first you want to warm up. For instance if you are a runner you can do 5 to 10 minutes of easy running meaning, feeling slow and comfortable to get the blood flowing.
Some examples of Dynamic Stretching for a runner may be:
1. A running skip- Using a skipping motion, raise your knees high while moving forward while swinging your arms in an exaggerated motion.
2. Knee ups- Lift one leg up as high a possible and gently grasp the knee and pull it slightly in towards your body while balancing on the opposite leg. Repeat while walking forward.
3. Butt kickers- You can do this either in place or while moving. Make a running motion with your legs but almost hit your rear end with the heel of your foot. This will help stretch your Quad muscles.
4. Sky walkers- While holding your hands up towards the sky. Walk forward kicking one leg up at a time and try to touch your hands. This will help stretch your hamstrings.
5. Arm swings- Swing your arms in a circular motion to help stretch the upper extremities.
6. Head Rolls- Lower one ear toward your shoulder on the same side without raising up your shoulder and gently roll your head to the center of your body and then to the opposite shoulder. This will help stretch your neck.
These are just some examples and tips about warming up and Dynamic Stretching but as equally as important is the cool down after your training or race.
When you are done with whatever physical activity you may be doing like for instance a runner. Walk afterwards until your heart rate comes down. Then do some static stretching such as quad, hamstring, calf, low back and some upper body stretches. Remember when you run you are utilizing your upper body as well as your lower body.
By doing Dynamic Stretching after a warm up and before you train or race you should feel stronger and have increases in your performance.
Mike Golemba PTA