Static stretching prior to a vigorous workout CAN increase your chances of injury. We recommend dynamic stretching as a great way to warm up thoroughly before you train.
For those who may be new to the concept of static or dynamic stretching, here is an explanation of the differences, and the reasons why we feel that dynamic stretching is the safer option before engaging in sports or fitness activities.
Static stretching is a deep, slow stretch, which is usually held in place for ten seconds or more. These are beneficial when you are aiming for extreme flexibility, or are beginning to learn how to increase range of motion of specific muscle groups.
When you have not thoroughly warmed up prior to doing static stretching, muscles can be more rigid, and over-stretching these cold muscles can lead to muscle tears. You will get more out of static stretches if you’re warm before doing them
Dynamic stretching is a series of fluid motions that are executed repeatedly so that the stretch is felt more with each repetition.
These stretches entail a lot of movement and are not necessarily deep stretches, so they can be done safely even as a warm up exercise. Professional athletes often use dynamic stretching as a great way to prevent injury and to loosen up the joints and muscles prior to a strenuous workout.
An example of this is leg swings, where you can start moving your leg back and forth with a straight leg, slowly getting higher with each repetition, to stimulate the hamstrings and bring more blood to the area, loosening the hip joint in the process.
After many years of teaching both Group Fitness and Martial Arts classes, I am still amazed at how often a client will pop in prior to the class starting, and begin to do static stretches whilst waiting for their session to begin. It reinforces to me that it is important to remain vigilant as a Trainer, and to ensure I am constantly reminding clients the dangers of static stretching immediately prior to an intense workout.
The reason that the risk of injury is increased by stretching muscles prior to working out, is that your muscles are still ‘cold’, or in a rested state, therefore if the muscles have not already been thoroughly warmed up, it could actually increase the likelihood of injury.
Recently sport science researchers have discovered that using static stretching as a warm up can actually slow running speeds, reduce jumping heights, and decrease muscular strength for resistance training movements, without actually reducing the possibility of being injured.
Muscles are made up of bunches of tiny fibres. Previously the theory was that stretching before engaging in exercise would make the muscles more pliable and therefore less likely to get torn or strained. However in studies that have compared the rates of injury (as well as perceived muscle soreness) among those that stretched prior to exercise and those who didn’t, researchers found little benefit (if any) in stretching.
Dynamic stretching in contrast more closely mimics the actual exercises that are going to be performed during a session, and allows the muscles to ‘warm up’ as core temperature rises, properly preparing your body for the workout.
The BEST Pre-Workout stretches for a full body workout
Whilst this stretching routine may not be perfect for all specific sports, it is a fantastic overall routine prior to a full body workout, as it targets most major muscle groups.
1. Walking alternative knees to chest – 10 repetitions per leg
2. Walking straight leg kicks – 10 repetitions per leg
3. Planks from push-up position- 30 second hold
4. Alternative Lunge and waist twist – 10 repetitions per side
5. Alternative straight arm rotations – 10 repetitions per arm
6. Cossack squats – 10 repetitions per side
7. Laying Hip Extensions – 10 repetitions
8. Standing good mornings – 10 repetitions
This dynamic warm-up is a fast way to target the vast majority of muscle groups required for general physical activity, and can definitely prepare you for your next workout session.