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How to Properly Warm Up Prior To Exercise: Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

People all too often continue to warm up prior to exercise, or an athletic competition, with static stretching. Static stretching means that you hold a stretch for a prolonged period of time, such as 30 to 60 seconds. In past decades, it was believed that static stretching prior to exercise was necessary in order to help prevent injury and improve performance. However, research over the past 20 years has demonstrated that this prior belief was incorrect and that a dynamic warm up, or dynamic stretching, is necessary in both preventing injury as well as improving performance.

A common warm-up utilizing static stretching includes a brief period of low intensity aerobic activity (such as riding a bike) and static stretching. Low intensity aerobic activity may elevate muscle and core temperature, decrease stiffness to muscle tissue and increase metabolism, blood circulation and nerve conduction. The purpose of static stretching is to improve flexibility, which has been indicated as an injury risk factor for athletes with decreased flexibility. While long-term flexibility training is important to maintain healthy muscle tissue length and reduce injury risk for specific individuals, there is no evidence that static stretching, immediately before activity, will significantly reduce muscle injury rates. Multiple studies, in fact, have no effect on performance and may actually cause performance deficits by decreasing strength, power; balance, reaction and movement time; vertical jump height; and sprint performance.

A dynamic warm up utilizes dynamic stretching and jump training which involve specific movements that will be used throughout the exercise session. A combination of these techniques prepare the body for performance by improving core and muscle temperature, enhancing function of the nervous system, and using similar movements that occur during subsequent exercise. Research has concluded that dynamic warm up can significantly improve power and agility, sprinting performance, vertical jump, and long jump.

It is important to incorporate up to date research in athletics and fitness if we want to get the best results and it is clearly stated, multiple times, that a dynamic warm up has significance in decreasing the risk of injury with performance, while also improving overall performance. Instead of using static stretching to warm up, use it after exercise when cooling down or in any setting other than a warm up for exercise. If you do not know how to properly incorporate a dynamic warm up, you should seek instruction from a qualified professional such as a physical therapist, athletic trainer or certified personal trainer.

Sources:

Aguilar, AJ, DiStefano, LJ, Brown, CN, Herman, DC, Guskiewicz, KM, and Padua, DA. A dynamic warm-up model increases quadriceps strength and hamstring flexibility. J Strength Cond Res 26(4): 1130-1141, 2012.

Behm DG, Bambury A, Cahill F, Power K. Effect of acute static stretching on force, balance, reaction time, and movement time. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36: 1397–1402, 2004.

Bishop D. Warm up II: Performance changes following active warm up and how to structure the warm up. Sports Med 33: 483–498, 2003.

Church JB, Wiggins MS, Moode FM, Crist R. Effect of warm-up and flexibility treatments on vertical jump performance. J Strength Cond Res 15: 2001, 332–336.

Cramer JT, Housh TJ, Weir JP, Johnson GO, Coburn JW, Beck TW. The acute effects of static stretching on peak torque, mean power output, electromyography, and mechanomyography. Eur J Appl Physiol 93: 530–539, 2005.

Faigenbaum AD, McFarland JE, Schwerdtman JA, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Hoffman JR. Dynamic warm-up protocols, with and without a weighted vest, and fitness performance in high school female athletes. J Athl Train. Oct-Dec 2006; 41(4):357–363.

Fletcher IM, Anness R. The acute effects of combined static and dynamic stretch protocols on fifty-meter sprint performance in track-and-field athletes. J Strength Cond Res 21: 784–787, 2007.

Fletcher IM, Jones B. The effect of different warm-up stretch protocols on 20 meter sprint performance in trained rugby union players. J Strength Cond Res 18: 885–888, 2004.

Hough P, Ross E, Howatson G. Effects of dynamic and static stretching on vertical jump performance and electromyographic activity. J Strength Cond Res 23: 507–512, 2009.

McMillian DJ, Moore JH, Hatler BS, Taylor DC. Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: The effect on power and agility performance. J Strength Cond Res 20: 492–499, 2006.

Pope RP, Herbert RD, Kirwan JD, Graham BJ. A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32: 271–277, 2000.

Thompsen AG, Kackley T, Palumbo MA, Faigenbaum AD. Acute effects of different warm-up protocols with and without a weighted vest on jumping performance in athletic women. J Strength Cond Res 21: 52–56, 2007.

Torres EM, Kraemer WJ, Vingren JL, Volek JS, Hatfield DL, Spiering BA, Ho JY, Fragala MS, Thomas GA, Anderson JM, Häkkinen K, Maresh CM. Effects of stretching on upper-body muscular performance. J Strength Cond Res 22: 1279–1285, 2008.

Yamaguchi T, Ishii K. Effects of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on leg extension power. J Strength Cond Res 19: 677–683, 2005.

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