Gone are the days of a static stretching before a workout. Whether you are out for a run, on the court for a pick up game of basketball, or cycling your butt off, you will need your body to be ready for whatever you throw at it. When you start with static stretching, tiny tears are created in the muscle fibers which can increase the risk of injury. If you are an elite athlete, you really do not want to be sidelined for any of your events. A small tear from static stretching for a sprinter in the hamstring can lead to that pulled hamstring during a race. The same holds true for that pick up game of basketball. Don’t perform a static stretch on your calf as it may lead to something serious when you explosively take off from the ground for a rebound or lay-up. A mountain biker needs a lot of power to crank up steep inclines, so static stretching should be avoided prior to shredding the trails.
Before exercise, one should perform a dynamic warmup targeting areas of the body that will need to be ready for what ever exercise or activity you are going to perform. Even still, involving the full body will ensure the best warm up. A proper dynamic warm up increases blood flow to those areas of the body that need it as well as increases muscle fiber recruitment. In other words, it wakes things up so that they are ready for action. Getting more muscle fibers to join the party will increase your performance.
Let’s look at a power lifter. Power lifting is a very explosive sport and it is highly important to have the body ready or the risk of injury if high. Pretend we are at a competition and we have two athletes. They are getting ready for their big all out lift on the bench. Assume the two athletes are the same size, with the same bench max, and wearing the same clothing. Let’s take Power lifter A, who does nothing to get ready for the lift. He lays on the bench, he has not invited all the muscle fibers to the party, he does not have the blood flow to safely perform this ultra explosive move and fails. Power lifter B, warm ups on a stationary bike. He also does his normal lunges, twists, arm swings, and gets on a warm up bench to lift a light weight, and works his way up to a good weight for muscle fiber recruitment. He does not fail but succeeds and do to the adrenaline and mind-set actually is able to lift more than was expected.
Make sure that you are including a dynamic warm up in your routine, you can see how beneficial it can be. See the video linked here to walk through some great dynamic exercises so that you are ready for your next bout of exercise!