It is widely accepted that a warm-up prior to sport is essential to increase blood flow, improve performance and to decrease the risk of injury. Stretching is often included in warm-ups, however the way in which you stretch may actually have a negative effect on your performance.
Different types of stretching:
- Static stretching is performed by gradually extending the targeted muscle to the movement-limiting point and then holding for 20-30 seconds or sometimes longer.
- Dynamic stretching involves a fluid movement, often similar to movements involved in the activity or sport, performed in an exaggerated way to move through full ranges of movement.
- Ballistic stretching uses fast and strong counter-movements, often resembling a bouncing type movement.
Which type of stretching should be included in a warm-up?
Research has found that ballistic stretching poses a potential risk of injury, as it may activate a stretch reflex and therefore is not recommended in a warm-up.
Static stretching is effective for enhancing flexibility, however research has found jump height and sprint speed to be worse after static stretching in comparison to dynamic stretching. If you are about to play a sport which involves explosive power such as jumping or quick sprints, static stretching may actually hinder your performance.
Research has revealed that dynamic stretching resulted in significantly higher jump height in comparison to both static stretching and no stretching. It has also been found that both dynamic stretching and static stretching resulted in significantly greater flexibility compared to no stretching.
A well-designed warm-up including dynamic stretching serves the dual purpose of enhancing flexibility, whilst also preparing you for peak performance.
What would a dynamic stretch warm-up involve?
It is important to remember that each individual is different and the requirements of different sports would also impact the design of your warm-up. For example a gymnast’s warm-up would look very different to a soccer player’s warm-up as the movements involved in these sports are significantly different. If you want specific guidance on how to perform a dynamic stretch sequence for your specific needs and sport, all of the Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists at Southside Physiotherapy will be able to guide you.
Here are a few dynamic stretch ideas:
1. Skip with arms driving upward
2. High knee pulls
3. Stepping into single leg Romanian deadlift
4. Leg swings
5. Stepping lunge with trunk rotation