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Why do we put so much emphasis on a proper “Dynamic” warm-up prior to your Session vs Static stretching?

You have probably heard your coach ask, “Have you done your dynamic warm-up yet.” I have even heard some of you ask “Why” do we have to perform a warm-up, “I have to show up 15 minutes earlier”, or even some of you have “pushed back” on performing the Dynamic Warm-up at all prior to your exercise bout.

So here it is, the science and benefits:

A warm up generally consists of a gradual increase in intensity in physical activity (a "pulse raiser"), joint mobility exercise, and stretching, followed by the activity. Warming up brings the body to a condition at which it safely responds to nerve signals for quick and efficient action. The warmup should gently prepare the body for exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation; this will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. Stretching the muscles prepares them for physical activity and prevents injuries. A warm-up gradually revs up your cardiovascular system by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Warming up may also help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury. Cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure. A thorough warmup helps increase the blood flow to the working muscle which results in decreased muscle stiffness, reduced risk of injury and often, improved performance. Additional benefits of warming up include physiological and psychological preparation for more extreme exercise.

A proper dynamic warm up has many physiological benefits:

Increases core body temperature.

Increase blood flow to the muscles.

Stimulates the nervous system and activates muscle groups.

Improves joint mobility and flexibility.

Increases coordination and balance.

Reinforces proper movement patterns.

Decreases risk of injury (due to all of the above mentioned)

Static Vs. Dynamic 

Static stretching is when you hold a stretch in the same position for any given length of time. Dynamic stretching is when you are performing an active stretch with movement. The best type of dynamic warmups are those that incorporate 'exercise' specific movements.

For years, many athletes have been taught to perform a thorough static stretching routine before engaging in training, practice, or competition. You may have seen this – Coach / Trainer yells to his team, “go warm up!”  They jog a lap around the field, then commence to circle up (standing and/or sitting) and perform a series of static hamstring, quads, hip, calf, and tricep stretches while sharing the gossip of the day between when they are counting fast to 10.  While static stretches can help to improve flexibility, they do not aid in adequately preparing the body for the rigors of athletic performance and competition.

More recently, a significant amount of research has shown that performing a proper dynamic warm-up before activity is a much better route to optimize performance vs. static stretching. Research has found that while static stretching can provide recovery benefits when performed at the end of a workout, it can hamper performance if performed prior to exercise. That’s because it relaxes muscles, sapping strength, while reducing blood flow and decreasing central nervous system activity. Active warm-up exercises — especially those that involve dynamic stretching — have the opposite effect, boosting blood flow, activating the central nervous system, and enhancing strength, power, and of motion. As a result, they offer a host of both immediate and long term benefits. A proper dynamic warm up has many physiological benefits:

Specific Benefits of a Proper Dynamic Warm-Up

Increased Muscle Temperature

The temperature increases within muscles that are used during a">warm-up routine</a>. A warmed muscle both contracts more forcefully and relaxes more quickly. In this way, both speed and strength can be enhanced. Also, the probability of overstretching a muscle and causing injury is far less.

Increased Body Temperature

This improves muscle elasticity, also reducing the risk of strains and pulls. Blood Vessels Dilate— This reduces the resistance to blood flow and lower stress on the heart.

Improve Efficient Cooling

By activating the heat-dissipation mechanisms in the body (efficient sweating) an athlete can cool efficiently and help prevent overheating early in the event or race.

Increased Blood Temperature

The temperature of blood increases as it travels through the muscles. As blood temperature rises, the binding of oxygen to hemoglobin weakens so oxygen is more readily available to working muscles, which may improve endurance.

Improved Range of Motion

The" range of motion around a joint is increased.

Hormonal Changes

Your body increases its production of various hormones responsible for regulating energy production. During warm-up, this balance of hormones makes more carbohydrates and" fatty acids available for energy production.

Mental Preparation

The warm-up is also a good time to mentally prepare for an event by clearing the mind, increasing focus, reviewing skills and strategy. Positive imagery can also relax the athlete and build concentration.

Active warm-ups improve performance, here is the Science…

A 2014 systematic review of 31 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that dynamic / active warm-ups encompassing such exercises as sprints and plyometrics can enhance power and strength performance. Meanwhile shorter, static stretching not only fails to provide such a boost, but may also reduce strength. A meta-analysis of 32 studies on warming up and performance in 2010 also found that doing an active warm-up before engaging in sports yields improved performance — in this case, by 79 percent across all criteria examined.

“I have even seen runners who are doubling up in distance events on the same day run their second event better than the first,” says Brad A. Roy, Ph.D., FACHE, FACSM, FMFA, executive director of The Summit Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell, Montana. “With adequate rest, the initial event serves as an enhanced warm-up for the second event.”

Even if you aren’t playing a sport every week — or competing in two running events in a single day — doing some dynamic stretching every time you lace up for exercise can help optimize your performance and fast track your results. It doesn’t matter whether you’re exercising in your living room, pumping iron in the gym, pounding the pavement, or hitting the links on a Sunday — priming your body for action will elevate your game and accelerate your gains.

Active warm-ups prevent injury...

A 2008 study of roughly 2,000 soccer players in The BMJ found that a structured warm-up program that included running, jumping, dynamic stretching, and targeted exercises for strength, balance, core stability, and hip and knee durability decreased the overall risk of injury by 35 percent, and cut severe injuries by almost half.

Scientists at Northwestern University had similar results in their 2011 study of 1,500 athletes. They found that 20 minutes of strength, balance, plyometric, and other dynamic stretching exercises before practice yielded a 65 percent reduction in gradual-onset injuries, a 56 percent reduction in acute non-contact injuries, and a 66 percent reduction in non-contact ankle sprains. More recently, a 2014 review of studies a published in Orthopaedic Nursing found that tailoring a warm-up to a specific exercise / sport led to the fewest injuries and best outcomes.

If you have questions about the Elite Dynamic Warm-up please don't hesitate to ask a coach next time you are in.  All of our clients are expected to perform the Elite Dynamic Warm-up prior to every session! Our coaches have a BS in Exercise Physiology / Kinesiology and have gone through an extensive Elite Internship program. They know and understand your body and are dedicated to your safety, health and well being.

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