Warming Up with Dynamic and Static Stretching
As athletes, it is imperative that we are fully warm and stretched before physical activity in order to increase performance and decrease the chance of injury. Over the years, I have been with a number of teams that I have learned many different warm-up routines with. While the particular routines were slightly different, the same principles applied: Dynamic stretching/warm-up followed by static stretching.
Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
Dynamic Stretches are designed to take a joint or a muscle through a challenging and repetitive motion, moving a body part further with each repetition. Reducing hip stiffness prior to starting a run or ride will reduce the risk of the dreaded overuse injury. Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to exercise to prepare the joints for movement and muscles for optimal activation.
Dynamic Stretch Examples
Static Stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint or a muscle that is minimally challenging. The focus is on relaxing the body part being stretched and letting it go further on its own. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue; conversely, done prior to activity, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.
Static Stretch Examples
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that bring the legs up toward the trunk and help generate a powerful kick. They play a large role in kicking and other field sports and must be stretched properly.
The quadriceps (quads) make up a group of muscles along the front of the thigh. These muscles are the powerful muscles used in sprinting and kicking and they are often prone to fatigue and severe cramping. The standing quad stretch is a simple stretch you can do virtually anywhere while standing.
The calf, or gastrocnemius, muscle runs along the back of your lower leg and is in constant use while running up and down the soccer field. Muscles in the calves can become easily fatigued, and can also pull or tear in unfortunate situations. Because of this, stretching your calves before any athletic activity is extremely important.
There are many different ways to stretch the piriformis muscle that lies deep beneath the gluteus (butt) muscles. This exercise is easy to do and is a quick way to relax and open the hips and target the piriformis muscle. Don’t forget to stretch both sides.
The hamstrings need to be strong but not tight in order to endure the demands of running and kicking and multiple quick starts and stops during a game or workout. This simple hamstring stretch can help maintain length in the hamstrings.
The iliotibial (IT) band is a tough group of fibers that run along the outside of the thigh that stabilizes the joints. This area may become irritated from overuse or tightness, so it’s extremely important to stretch it out prior to strenuous activity. The standing IT band stretch is a quick way to target the IT band.