It is very important to have a proper warm-up routine to ensure the body is prepared for the demands about to be placed in on during an activity or sport. The body is more capable of performing at a higher level when the muscles are warm and more flexible decreasing the possibility of injury during exercise. All too often I notice people in the gym making the same mistake of either skipping a warm up all together or performing light cardiovascular activity followed by static stretching (aka passive stretching) prior to their workout. Research studies have found this type of warm up incorrect and that performing dynamic flexibility exercises prior to activity more adequately prepares the muscles to contract with more force. It’s been found that static stretches affect the neuromuscular efficiency of a muscle resulting in decreased strength and possible increased risk of injury in the stretched muscle group; therefore, the best time to perform static stretches is post-exercise when the muscles are warm to reduce muscle soreness and fix muscle imbalances.
A dynamic warm up consists of performing movements similar to those about to be performed in the upcoming activity. They specifically target the neuromuscular system increasing functional range of motion allowing muscles to produce more force during activity. Dynamic movements also known as active stretching can be altered to any activity and provides many great benefits such as: strengthening and stretching muscles specific to activity type-thereby improving muscular performance, takes less time than the a warm up consisting of static stretching, and improves psychological preparation because focus on form and speed is required throughout the entire warm up.
With all of this being said, there is a specific time and place when static stretching is “OK” to do during a warm up. This is in an instance where you have a specific injury or muscle imbalance that needs a little extra attention prior to exercise.
Here are a few examples of dynamic warm up exercises:
-Lunge Walk: for loosening the hips, improving leg drive, and strengthening the butt and hamstrings. Assume a lunge position and step forwards into another lunge with chest up and looking straight ahead.
-High Knee Lift: for hip flexor and ankle strength. Extend up onto the toes and lift each thigh to a position parallel with the ground as you move forwards.
Email Michelle@CORE-Condition.com for an example of a full dynamic warm up routine that could be done prior to exercise.
Michelle Roots BA Kin, CSCS, PES