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Dynamic Warm-up: ​Warming up for performance

​​​​​​​​​​​​Workouts or competition start with the warm-up. Old school warm-ups have been more focused on static stretching. But research is showing that dynamic stretching, one that includes movements done during the workout or sporting event, may be more effective at preventing injury.

It is well known that stretching a muscle for a long period of time (static stretching) lengthens the muscle and surrounding tissue. Cardiovascular​ activity, such as jogging, increases the heart rate, gets the blood flowing and warms-up the muscles. Evidence shows that dynamic stretching for warm-up is effective at accomplishing what static stretching and light cardiovascular activity do not. Dynamic stretching provides the capacity to train the nerves and muscles to work well together.

Warming up with movements that replicate movements involved in the specific sport or workout, prepares your body for the same movements, done with more intensity, which will occur during the workout or competition. It is important to first get the body moving to increase heart rate and warm up the muscles. But the method of static stretching we may have used, may not achieve as much good as once thought. Has static stretching gone away? It has not. A good time to do static stretching is after your workout or competition.

Recent scientific studies have not found a lower injury rate when static stretching is done before a workout. Some studies have shown that if a muscle is statically stretched, it actually loses power because it is long and has less ability to produce force. Despite the research, the importance of static stretching should not be overlooked, when the goal is to increase flexibility or regain lost flexibility.

Dynamic stretching incorporates slow, controlled movements instead of holding a stretch in one position. Such controlled movements may include: arm circles, hip rotations, flowing movement (similar to those done in yoga), walking or jogging. Research on this approach to warm-up continues, but more experts agree that dynamic stretching is the better approach to include in a warm-up routine before a workout or competition.

Keep in mind that any stretching, whether dynamic or static, done incorrectly, increases risk for injury. Talk with your athletic trainer or coach about the best approach to warm-up for your workout or competition.

Share comments or questions on this information. E-mail sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.