Think about a few of the dynamic stretches you typically like to use. Now picture stretching a rubber band for a moment. Take hold of both ends of that imaginary band and simply pull. The size and thickness of the band allows you to stretch it only so far. The rubber band in this case could be either your connective tissue or a muscle. Let’s choose a muscle. One more thing I want you to do. Place that rubber band in your freezer for a few minutes. Take it out and try to pull both ends again and stretch it if you can. That’s right, you can’t. A cold rubber band has limited range of motion and is now stiff in the same way a cold muscle would be before it’s warmed up.
Many of us though, never allow extra time to dynamically warm-up a muscle or group of muscles prior to using them in a strength or cardio workout. Both our muscular and nervous systems perform significantly better when they are put through a series of dynamic warm-up exercises. This should be long enough to promote a light sweat prior to a workout or any athletic event. Our muscles and nerves “fire” and perform much better when warmed up compared to when they’re stiff and cold, like the example of the rubber band.
Do Muscles Perform Better in the Morning or Afternoon?
Many of us exercise in the early morning and if you’re one of those people, it’s even more important to make time to warm-up. Our muscles are typically weaker during the morning and gradually increase in strength throughout the day. The body’s muscles reach peak strength sometime around early evening. Knowing this and the fact that it takes a few hours from when you wake-up to “turn on” and fully activate our neuromuscular system; a warm-up using dynamic stretches becomes even more important to do.
Muscles Have Less Chance of Injury When Warm-up
There is research that shows a warm-up may be beneficial in terms of helping prevent injuries, as this 2012 review showed when looking at knee injuries. A well thought out and planned dynamic warm-up increases power, flexibility, range of motion and helps balance; and as we’ve said, may help reduce injuries. In a study of female college soccer players, non-contact ACL injuries were cut in half among players who followed a warm-up program that included dynamic stretching exercises. In a second study of college athletes, this time with golf, researchers at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania found golfers were nine times less likely to be injured if they warmed-up dynamically before they played.
Here are five easy-to-do dynamic stretches that you can start doing before you exercise.
- Begin in a standing position with your legs together.
- Bend at the waist until both hands are flat on the ground (bend knees if needed).
- “Walk out” forward with hands until back is almost fully extended and you’re basically in a plank position.
- Maintain a strong, “engaged” core.
- Keeping legs straight, inch feet towards hands.
- Then walk hands out forward away from feet.
- Repeat 5 times.
- Lie prone (on stomach) with arms outstretched, palms down and feet flexed so only toes are touching ground.
- Kick right foot toward left arm, return to start and then kick left foot toward right arm.
- Do not force anything – follow your breath and relax as you perform the movement.
- Begin slowly and repeat 5-8 times to each side.
HIP SWING (Hip Abduction/Adduction)
- Face a solid wall placing both hands on the wall, keeping arms extended.
- Start with feet pointed straight and hip-width apart.
- Move the right leg away from the body (abduction) the swing back in front of the body
- Keep the leg fully extended and foot straight during the movement.
- Repeat on the opposite.
- Perform 5-10 repetitions on each side.
- Begin with feet shoulder-width and toes pointing straight.
- Maintain a tall posture and engaged core.
- Flex one leg upward like you were kicking a ball.
- Have the arms extended and straight out in front of the body.
- Attempt to kick to the height of the extended arms (if possible).
- Return and try on the opposite side as though you were marching.
- Move forward with each step as you kick.
- It’s important that the core muscles are engaged throughout.
- Perform 5-8 repetitions with each leg.
- Begin in tall, standing posture with feet shoulder-width.
- Keep both feet pointed straight ahead at all times.
- Step out to the side with your left foot.
- Make sure the toes are straight and that knee does not move beyond the toes.
- You want to sit back as you lower into the lunge position.
- Keep your core engaged, hands out in front of you, making sure not to lean forward with the upper body.
- Your non-involved leg should remain straight with the whole foot in contact with the ground.
- Push off from the left foot and return to the starting position.
- Repeat for 5-6 repetitions before switching legs.
Adding these five dynamic stretches to your program is a good start. There are literally hundreds of different dynamic movements available. Making the extra time before each workout will prepare your body much better for the upcoming workout. Stay Strong!
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