The Winter sports season is about to kick off and we all want to get through to the finals playing our best and avoiding injuries. Whether you are running out onto the soccer field, footy field, hockey field or netball court, an essential way to help ensure this is a good warm up. When most people think of warm up, they think of stretching.
In today’s world of functional exercise, it is surprising how many people we still see in the gym and on the sporting field with their foot up on a fence or “stretch bar” engaging in static stretching.
The intended purpose of this kind of pre-activity “warm-up” is to prepare the body for the sport or exercise ahead and to avoid injury and enhance performance. The irony is, that 100’s of studies show that it actually cools the body, increases the likelihood of injuries, and causes significant impairment to explosiveness and strength performance, compared to those who perform “dynamic” warms ups.
So what is the difference between the two?
Static stretching is simply holding a stretch in the same position of length for an extended time. Dynamic stretching takes the muscles and joints through a full range of continuous motion.
Why is Dynamic stretching the preferred preparation for sporting activity?
Firstly, “warming up” is far more important than “stretching up”. Dynamic stretching warms the body and muscles with controlled increases in intensity building to a level approaching game intensity. Think of “practicing and rehearsing” the movements you will be performing during competition. Injury prevention and maximising performance has a lot to do with timing of muscle contraction and a dynamic warm up with movements emulating those of your sport is the perfect rehearsal. It primes the nervous system (which controls your muscles) for action.
How it works: When you take a joint such as the knee through a motion, muscles on one side of the knee relax and lengthen exactly proportional to the amount and timing of the contracting muscles on the other side of the joint. This allows smooth stable movement to occur which is essential for proper execution of all sporting techniques. It is a “functional” lengthening and a warming that aids fluidity.
In contrast, static stretching by nature of being static, does not “warm”. It also imparts and inhibitory influence on neuronal firing in the muscle stretched (for up to 60 minutes) which is counterproductive to performance and it can even negate any previous dynamic movement done in the same session. It has no relevance to the activity ahead and can put you in a relaxed state rather than the heightened state necessary for competition both physically and mentally.
Static stretching increases “static flexibility”. Dynamic stretching increases “dynamic flexibility”. So unless your sport involves standing still we suggest a dynamic warm up is the way to go.
We suggest the combination of the use of foam rollers and balls followed by a dynamic warm up as the gold standard.
Check out the book “New Functional Training for Sports” by Mike Boyle for excellent dynamic warm ups.
Finally, having all your joints and nerves working properly is essential to any successful injury-free season, no matter how good your warm up is, so be sure to check in with your chiropractor to make sure you have the best chance possible of achieving this.
Enquire about getting an updated Spinal Health and/or Functional Neurological Assessment at ChiroHQ and enjoy your season!