Whether you're a pro athlete, or just recreationally active, a proper warmup routine can be the difference between performing your best or setting yourself up for injury.
But what is the best way to prepare for physical activity? This week, our PTs discuss the latest evidence surrounding dynamic warm ups, static stretching, and the most appropriate execution and timing for each.
There is solid evidence in the research, especially before performing a sport event, that warming up for 5-10 minutes, then performing a series of dynamic warm up drills that simulate some body movements of your sport in a progressive (slow to faster) fashion are quite beneficial. Dynamic warm ups can reduce stiffness & joint pain gradually, prevent some types of sport-related injury and improve your athletic performance by increasing the warmth to the joint, blood flow to the musculature and thus 'pre-stretch' your joints and connective tissues.
Static stretching (holding a stretch >10 seconds) prior to sport has actually been found to be detrimental before some competitive sports by temporarily stunning the muscle into a lower level of athletic performance. Otherwise, static stretches, especially after a 5-10 minute warm up, are wonderful and can be similarly helpful for improving joint mobility and reducing soft tissue tension. Static stretching tends to take longer and is often more of an intense stretch, which isn't preferable for some peoples' allocation of time toward fitness goals. The most important take-away is to adopt either static or dynamic stretches into your fitness routine and experiment with what feels best for your body, sport preference and dedicate the time to routinely performing a series of stretches twice daily.
- Brace Hayden, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Dynamic warm ups are recommended prior to exercise and/or running for gradually getting the joints moving through a greater range of motion. These movements include, slow continuous movement through range without static holding or bouncing. Static stretching, or holding a position for an extended period, allows the muscles to relax into a lengthened position so the joints can again move through a full range. This type of mobility is better after the workout is done or at the end of the day. I recommend both for about ten minutes each as part of a pre- and post- workout routine.
- Kristina Pattison, PT, DPT
I think this argument has been pretty well settled with the research favoring a dynamic warm-up as there has been some research to suggest that static stretching can actually decrease athletic performance. That being said it all depends on your sport and your body (some sports require high levels of flexibility while many do not). The way I approach warming up is by breaking it up into two components. The first component is a general warmup where I am just trying to get the heart rate gradually up, increasing blood flow to all relevant musculature. Typically, this can be as short as 3-5 min and involve one or a few different movements depending on what you are about to do. The second part of the warm up is the specific portion and should focus on what your body needs to prepare for what you are about to do. Again the specific part can be as short as 2-5 min but it should focus on prepping the parts of your body that will be doing the most work and addressing any restrictions to movement that are specific to you while progressively recreating the types of movements you are about to do. The whole thing can take 5 min or 30 min depending on the demands of the sport, your injury history, and how much time you have available. In general, if you are doing it right if your warm up gets the heart rate up, addresses any restrictions in movement you may have and progresses toward the type of activity you are about to do.
- Francisco Quinones, PT, DPT
Dynamic warmup or stretching is moving multiple muscle groups to prepare for more vigorous activity, while static stretching is generally to relax and lengthen muscle to its optimal and normal length. Usually static stretching is done after vigorous exercise as part of a cool down and important to relax muscle after exercise. Having said that: it is probably more important to focus on your specific body type. And are you generally a stiff person who likes lifting wts and power sports and sprints, or are you someone who would rather do yoga and show your extreme flexibility? We tend to gravitate toward what we are naturally good at, but avoid things that are harder to us. What we really all need is full mobility. Full mobility is, full range of motion and strength throughout this range. So if you are extremely flexible but weak you need to work on strength, and if you are stiff you need to work on getting full range of motion. The stiff person may want to spend more time on their static stretching following vigorous exercise to prevent injury and get full range of motion. The flexible person may want to spend more time working on dynamic warmup ex to have full strength and control.
- Gary Gales, PT, DPT, CMP