Warming up before exercise is crucial because it prepares your body for what’s to come. Stretching before physical activity ensures that all of the muscles are stretched out and ready to move, making it a great way to warm up before exercise. Whether you’re preparing to tackle one of the big 5 lifts, ensuring you’re fit for athletic exercise, or about to start developing your clean and jerk – a great warm up and cool down is always essential.
There are two types of stretches: dynamic and static. Dynamic or moving stretches involve large movements, such as arm swings. Static stretches hold the muscles in positions for 20 to 30 seconds, such as bending down to touch your toes. It is important to understand both types of stretches and what they can be useful for so that you can really make the most out of your workout and improve results.
A comprehensive understanding of warm-ups will also help minimise the potential risks such as muscle injuries. Fortunately, we put together this handy guide to help you understand exactly what warm-up stretches are, plus the two types of stretching and why they are both important. Keep reading to learn more!
Why Warm-Up Before Exercise?
It’s something we’ve been taught since PE classes as a child – always warm up before exercise. But why is that? According to this study, performing warm-ups increases muscle temperature and blood flow, which contributes to improved exercise performance, optimal flexibility, and reduced risk of injuries to muscles and tendons.
A good warm-up before a workout dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. By slowly raising your heart rate and incrementally revving up the cardiovascular system, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart.
What Are Static Stretches?
Static stretches are gentle stretches that you hold for a period of time, and come with many benefits. The aim of a static stretch is to move your muscles as far as they can go without feeling any pain, then hold that position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat the stretch 2-3 times each time you perform it. To keep your stretches safe and effective, remember: start slowly, don’t stretch beyond what’s comfortable, be gentle with your movements and remember to breathe!
Static stretches can be used before or after a workout, but research shows that static stretching before a workout can actually come with some potential risks. Ideally, static stretches should be performed after your workout to reap the benefits. This is because static stretching has a cool down effect on the muscles and the body, which could potentially hinder athletic performance if used before a workout. That’s not to say that static stretching should never be used pre-workout, but do so sparingly.
In spite of this, static stretches come with a wide range of benefits, including:
- Improved movement efficiency and flexibility
- Better relaxation
- Reduces muscle tension and soreness
- Lowers the risk of lower back pain
Static Stretch Examples
- Sit with both legs extended out straight.
- While hinging at the waist, extend your arms and reach forward as far as feels comfortable. Make sure to keep your knees straight.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Release back into the starting position.
- Repeat three times.
- Stand with both feet together so that your knees are touching.
- Shift your weight onto one foot and lift the heel of the other. Touch the wall or a chair if you need extra stability.
- Grasp the back of the lifted foot using the hand on the same side, and pull it in towards your glutes. Push your hips forward and chest up and out.
- Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
Dynamic stretches are stretching exercises that move a joint through the whole available range of motion or full length, but no further than that range. Dynamic stretching is a type of stretch that involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. The aim of dynamic stretching is to prepare your body for exercise by activating the nervous system and raising heart rate. To ensure that your dynamic stretches are safe and effective and avoid injury, we recommend that you don’t push yourself too hard or fast.
Dynamic stretches should be done at the beginning of an exercise session to prepare muscles for activity as well as increase range of motion. Dynamic stretching is beneficial to athletes and active people because it increases blood and oxygen flow and prepares muscles for physical activity. Dynamic stretching also offers many other benefits, such as:
- Boosted muscle coordination and function
- Developed agility and flexibility
- Better balance
- Improved athletic performance
Dynamic Stretch Examples
- Stand on one leg, touching a wall or chair for support if necessary.
- Point the toes on your other leg, gently swinging your leg round in small circles.
- Perform 20 circles before switching legs.
- Work up to larger circles as your flexibility develops.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift your arms out straight to the side at shoulder height.
- Start making small circles with your hands and gradually increase the size, working up to larger circles. Perform 20 circles.
- Reverse the direction of your circles and repeat.
At Strength Ambassadors, we are experts in training. With courses, workshops and personal training available for all different types of strength training, we’ve got something for everyone. We also know the benefits of a great warm-up and how to best use these stretches to boost your results. Remember that your warm-up and cool down are just as important as your workout and don’t skip them! Find out more about building strength here or contact us today to learn more!