The New Warm-Up for Runners - Dynamic Stretching
Russell Gunner, C.A.T. (C)
We have all heard that warming up and stretching before you play a sport will prevent injuries. Did you however know that this has never been proven through research. There is no scientific proof that stretching before a game or exercise will alleviate the chances of sustaining that year ending hamstring injury. As an Athletic Therapist, I have been asking athletes to stretch before exercise, because I think it may help, although there is no proof. One reason why many believe that the typical stretching (static stretching is holding a stretched position for 20-30 seconds) does not help prior to exercise is the lack of increased blood flow. When you hold the stretch for a prolonged period, you are increasing the length of the muscle but not the blood flow. The first thing that happens when you step out on the street, is the muscles need a sudden surge of oxygen enriched blood. Static stretching does not do this, but dynamic stretching will.
Dynamic stretching, according to Thomas Kurz, Personal Trainer "involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both." Dynamic stretching is a relatively new term that incorporates both increasing the muscle extensibility and blood flow prior to a work-out. It involves taking a limb (shoulder, hip, etc.) and repeatedly moving it back and forth or side to side about 8-15 times. For examples of dynamic hip stretching, see the figures below. The athlete will need to be careful to not get fatigued while doing the exercise. If the athletes starts to get tired, the stretching should be stopped and take a few minutes to cool down. More repetitions will only fatigue the nervous regulation of the muscles' length and may cause you to lose some of your flexibility. It may be easier to start with just 8 repetitions and work your way up to 15. It is also recommended that you start the movement off slowly and work your way up to maximum range of motion.
Dynamic stretching is not to be confused with ?Ballistic stretching?. Ballistic stretching involves taking the stretch to its maximum length and bouncing repeatedly. The danger with this exercise is that it may cause microscopic tears within the muscle fibers, which in turn may cause future injuries to the whole muscle. Therefore this form of stretching is not recommended for many athletes. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or "jerky" movements.
Types of Dynamic Stretching:
Leg Swings (Front and Back)
Stand sideways to the wall with one hand holding onto it. The leg should be slightly bent.
Swing your opposite leg in front of you until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and then behind you until you feel a stretch in your hip flexors.
Repeat 8-15 times per leg
Leg Swings (Side to Side)
Stand on one leg with a slightly bent knee, facing the wall.
Swing your opposite leg out to the side until you feel a stretch in your groin and then across your body until you feel a stretch in your side hip or gluts..
Try to keep your hips facing forwards
Repeat 8-15 times per leg
Do not let someone tell you that there is only one way to stretch a muscle or that this is the only way for you to do it. I always recommend to my athletes to do a warm-up before their activity, but do what they feel comfortable with. If one athlete likes to take 20 minutes before a run, ride the bike and do several static stretches, then that is their prerogative. If another does nothing before the big game because they feel it tires them out and doesn?t keep them focused, then that is their opinion also. Dynamic stretching is just one of many ways to warm-up prior to any activity. If it works for you, great, if not, at least you tried.
If you have any questions or would like to see someone at Club Physio Plus, please contact us.