Warm up – should I stretch or not?
To round up our running blog series we will be covering how to warm up for running and other sports too.
In this series of blogs we have also covered:
- Common Running Injuries – ITBS – Iliotibial Band Syndrome
This is a question we get asked a lot ‘Should I stretch or not?’
The answer to that question is based on current research we should use dynamic and not static stretches. There has been more and more research to show that static pre exercise stretching can compromise performance by reducing running speed, strength, endurance and reaction time.
So why should we not use static stretching in a warm up?
Static stretching relaxes the muscles and tendons which decreases strength and power.
So how do I warm up then?
Depending on your sport this will vary.
For runners, a short slow run, following by some dynamic stretches and then sport specific is the best thing to do i.e, if you are a sprinter you may practice sprint drills out of the starting blocks.
Footballers – sprint drills, then some plyometrics- jumps/hops/ladders then dynamic flexibility, then sports specific football drills.
Why dynamic stretching?
It has been shown to improve performance. During dynamic stretching the muscle activates through a wide range of movement which then helps to activate neural pathways and then the muscles too.
Some examples of dynamic stretching are:
|High Knees – aim for 30 in 30 seconds|
|Heel Flicks – aim for 30 in 30 seconds|
|Leg Swings – 15 each on side|
|Lunge Walks – 15 each on side|
More research into the benefits of a warm up is still required.
But based on current research a short slow jog/or sprint, followed by dynamic stretches prior to sport specific exercises has been shown to improve performance.
Please note: If you have always stretched statically in the past and have had no problems and feel it helps you then please do continue. But if you do want to work to improve your flexibility then it is much better to stretch afterwards or in between running / sports sessions, as you will improve flexibility without compromising power and strength.