Thankfully it is that time of year again. With sun and warmer weather people are getting out more and being more active. Whether it is golf, tennis, soccer, running or whatever people typically want to make sure that as they transition into these sports they limit injury. A good first place to start is making sure that your spine and nervous system are working optimally, and we can help you with that. The next thing is making sure you are warming up properly. Patients ask me frequently what stretches they should do before XYZ and my answer is always the same, NONE. That does not mean we do nothing but stretching is not the answer. Now this may go against what some of you have been told or have always done but let me tell you why.
While stretching will help to relax tight muscles, it can also cause to reciprocal inhibition of other muscles. My main concern though is the effect stretching can have on the joints. If we think about it, one of things that happens when we stretch is we loosen up our joints. If we are playing a sport that requires quick movement, stop-start types of movements we put stress on our joints. So lets say we stretch out some of those joint stabilizers prior to that activity, what can happen? Well… we could possibly put more stress on our joints, move them past their normal range of motion, and cause injury.
So what is a better option? Dynamic movements.
Dynamic stretches improve body awareness. If you don’t warm-up and hop into a soccer game, it may take a while for your body to perform optimally. Moving as you stretch challenges your balance and coordination; skills that could help your performance.
Warming up in motion enhances muscular performance and power. Studies reveal dynamic stretching before a workout can help you lift more weight and increase overall athletic performance compared to static stretching . If you are trying to get stronger, build more muscle, or simply perform better, a dynamic warm-up routine is likely your best bet.
So what is a better plan prior to activity?
There are a lot of options, but let me give you a short list to get you started.
- Lunge with a twist.
- High kicks.
- Squats or jump squats.
- Jump lunges (paratroopers)
- Jumping jacks
There are a lot of options here and the net is a great resource. If you are working with kids there are a lot of ways to make this fun through movements games.
So what about stretching? Stretching and flexibility are very important and best done after activity or times outside of your workout. Exercise often leads to muscle soreness and fatigue. Stretching after a workout helps to reduce muscle fatigue. When you stretch after a workout, your muscles are warm and you benefit from increased blood circulation. Stretching will help your muscles to recover faster from a tough workout.
Get out and move!