Champion’s Quest Performance Trainer Landon Fowler weighs in on the importance of the dynamic stretch to not only prevent injury, but boost performance throughout any activity.
Properly warming up and stretching is an important part of any athletic competition or training session. Warm-up prepares an athletes body for competition by increasing their range of motion (ROM), increasing the muscles temperature, while decreasing their risk of injury. There are different types of stretching and warm-ups, including ballistic and dynamic stretching, static stretching and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching.
Ballistic and Dynamic stretching both involve active muscular effort. Ballistic stretching is conducted in a bouncing motion, which does not allow the muscle to relax. This type of stretch has shown to cause injury especially to a previous injured muscle or connective tissue. Dynamic stretching also involves active muscular effort but it avoids the bouncing motion. Dynamic activities involve those that are sport specific exercises and will help prepare the athlete for their sport or activity. One needs to avoid ballistic stretching and focus on dynamic activities such as high knees, lunges, or push-ups.
Static stretching is an effective way of stretching and encourages elongation of skeletal muscle. It involves a slow and constant stretch where the end position is held, usually for 10-20 seconds. This stretch rarely produces injury and greatly increases an athletes ROM. PNF stretching was first developed as a rehabilitation method but found that it could produce the greatest gains in ROM. PNF involves three techniques: hold-relax, contract-relax, and hold-relax with agonist contraction. It requires the assistance of a partner though, so may be more difficult to perform.
Since you want to avoid ballistic stretching and PNF requires the assistance of a partner, we will focus on dynamic and static stretching. New research has shown that static stretching decreases eccentric strength for up to an hour after the stretch. Static stretching has been shown to decrease muscle strength by up to 9% for 60 minutes following the stretch and decrease eccentric strength by 7% followed by a specific hamstring stretch (Critchell, 2002). Three 15-second stretches of the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles reduced the peak vertical velocity of a vertical jump in the majority of subjects (Knudson, 2000). Static stretching has shown to reduce power production, so it may want to be avoided before activity. On the other hand some studies show dynamic stretching to reduce the number of injuries when compared to static stretching. Since dynamic activities involve active muscular effort, it increases core temperature, muscle temperature, elongates the muscles, stimulates the nervous system, and helps decrease the chance of injury (Gregory, 2001).
In conclusion, dynamic exercises seem to be the best way to warm-up and stretch for an activity. They promote muscle and body temperature increases and stretches the active muscle in a way that will be used during exercise. Since static exercises may reduce power production, it is best to perform these stretches after competition. This also helps speed recovery, decrease soreness, and will help cool the body down following exercise. Dynamic exercise should be done before activity, while static stretches are best performed post activity.
What are some key dynamic warm-up exercises? Here’s a short video of Denver Outlaw’s trainer Eric Evans
performing the same exercises as the pros do: