Stretching before a workout or athletic event is important, right? The answer depends on how you’re stretching. If you’re stretching each area of the body while standing still and holding the stretch, it’s called ‘static stretching’. Static stretching is done while holding your body in one position, and isn’t recommended before an activity because it doesn’t warm up the body properly. When talking about dynamic warm ups, it’s helpful to think about a rubber band: dynamic stretching, or stretching with accompanied movement, allows the rubber band to stretch and bounce back quickly. Static stretching, however, is just like stretching a rubber band as far as it will go without bouncing back to its original length.
Dynamic warm ups add movement while stretching, and engage the entire body. The benefits of dynamic warm ups are increased range of motion, enhanced muscular performance, and better body awareness, meaning your body is that much better prepared to engage in certain movements. Warming up, when done correctly, is an essential component of any sports training program, as it helps to not only prepare the body for movement, but also prepares the mind to focus and compete at an optimum level.
Dynamic warm ups prevent injury and prep the body for activity by activating the stretch reflex (which keeps your muscles and tendons from tearing), warming up the muscles, and activating the muscle spindles, which are connected to the spinal cord.
Thinking about skipping the warm up? Think again! For athletes, warming up is arguably one of the most crucial parts of a workout. Dynamic warm ups prepare the entire body to move easily and effectively. Enhanced athletic performance and reduced probability of injury are two very good reasons to take your warm ups seriously. But dynamic warm ups need to be done correctly. Some common mistakes are static stretching or not loosening tight muscles before a workout (you can do this easily with a lacrosse ball or foam roller).
So what are some examples of dynamic warm ups? Keep reading to find out!
Step One: Thermogenics
Thermogenics is all about turning things up: raising the body temperature, heart rate, and blood flow, as well as joint viscosity. Thermogenics is the first step in a successful dynamic warm up. Thermo means ‘relating to heat’, and that is just what happens to your body in this phase: your blood gets pumping, your heart rate accelerates, and your muscles are warmed up so that your body can function optimally in practice or at a game. Why are warm muscles so important? They contract and stretch more quickly, and are generally more responsive, and this affects things like speed and strength. Thermogenics elevate core body temperature, and usually include activities that will warm up your body gradually, like slow jogging, jumping jacks, and jumping rope. These exercises should be done for about 3-5 minutes total.
Step Two: Actives
These movements focus on two things: mobility and stability. They activate joints and muscles for better range of motion. In this phase, balancing exercises are combined with more frenetic movements. Mini-bands are often used in this phase for muscle resistance, while spinal movements like supine twists loosen the joints.
For greater mobility and stability, consider the following movements:
Alternating knee to chest squeeze and ankle grab
Step Three: Ballistics:
Much like the thermogenic part of the warm up, ballistic warm up exercises begin at a lower intensity and are increased until the movements are rapid and aerobic. Some examples of these kinds of warm ups are sprints and skipping.
A good warm up should last, on average, ten minutes, or you run the risk of tiring out your muscles too early and impeding your capacity for endurance.
Tailoring Your Warm up
Warming up is an important part of any physical activity, and can benefit anyone, no matter what sport they’re engaging in. However, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your warm up and seeing results in your performance. This is why one dynamic warm up does not fit all. Different muscles are used for different activities, and the warm up should reflect that. For example, a warm up for a basketball player might look quite different from that of a swimmer, because different muscle groups are used in different ways in each sport.
The Importance of Cooldowns
Oftentimes, athletes neglect to cool down after a game or practice. This doesn’t allow for a smooth transition from an amped up heart rate to a resting one. A cool down does exactly that: it cools the body temperature down to a normal, resting level, preventing fainting and dizziness. Cool downs also reduce muscle soreness and negate the effects of lactic acid buildup in the body. Walking, total body stretching, and savasana type relaxation stretches can all be part of a cool down routine.
Now you know just why dynamic warm ups that are tailored to your specific activity should be considered an integral part of the activity itself, and not just an afterthought. As long as you engage in a proper warm up beforehand and a cool down afterward, your performance will likely be better than it would be otherwise.
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