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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dynamic Stretching in Warm Up

This week Jasmine Eisenhaur, PT, MScPT is our guest blogger. This weeks focus is the importance of dynamic stretching during warm up.

As a physiotherapist who has been involved with sports for many years, whether as an athlete or a team therapist, it amazes me how many athletes still continue to statically stretch as part of a warm-up prior to competition. While this was previously the main way to stretch as part of a warm-up, it has long been known now that dynamic stretching is the more beneficial method. As Faigenbaum et al reported in their study, a brief period of static stretching negatively affected jumping and sprinting performance in children (2005). While static stretching can help to improve range of motion at a joint, in a muscle, and in the surrounding fascia, there is most definitely a more ideal time to do this than before a competition. McMillan et al found that the group who performed a dynamic warm-up had  improved performance on their measures of agility, functional leg power and total body power compared to groups that performed a warm-up with static stretches or no warm-up at all (2006). 
There are some basic guidelines you can use to ensure any athlete is getting a proper warm-up:
- Start with some light aerobic exercise ie. a jog, riding a stationary bike. Ideally this should be long enough that the athlete breaks a sweat. This is usually a few minutes in length and ensures that blood flow to the muscles has increased.
- Do dynamic stretching exercises for any muscles that will be used during the competition. Dymanic stretches should be controlled movement, meaning never too fast to lose control of the affected body part, and should be painfree.  The stretches should also move through as much of the muscle's or joint's range of motion as possible, ie. don't do a walking lunge and only go halfway down - get the most out of the stretch. 
- An effective stretching program will leave the athlete feeling limber and ready to participate without fear of injury during the competition.
While this may sound like a lot, there only needs to be one stretch for each muscle group. In many sports, ie. hockey, another more sport-specific warm-up is done before the competition, which emphasizes the importance of keeping the dynamic warm-up simple but effective while still preparing the athlete for the sport-specific warm-up. 
The one instance I will educate athletes on using static stretches as part of a warm-up is when they have been injured recently and they feel that they simply will not perform as well without statically stretching the affected muscle or joint. However, I will generally recommend to that athlete to follow the static stretch with a dynamic one when it is possible, to ensure the muscle is dynamically prepared for the competition ahead. 

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