Contributor: Anne Rex, DO
Warming up before an activity is always a good idea to prevent injury and get ready to perform a sport or exercise.
It’s important that we teach our children about performing proper warm-up stretches. In recent years it’s become clear that the manner in which we do warm-up stretching can directly benefit or hinder performance.
Within the past 10 years, there has been a paradigm shift from static stretching toward dynamic stretching. Traditional static stretching involves moving a joint as far as it can go and holding it for a length of time, typically 30 to 60 seconds.
Dynamic stretching, however, is movement-based stretching. Dynamic stretching is particularly ideal for sports that use explosive movements such as soccer, sprinting, basketball and tennis.
Today, coaches are making sure that young athletes are ready to play by incorporating dynamic stretching into the warm-up routine before practices and competitions.
How dynamic stretching works
Dynamic stretching focuses on actively moving the joints and muscles (usually 10 to 12 repetitions for any given dynamic stretch) with sport-specific motions targeting necessary muscle groups to increase the power, flexibility and range of motion needed for enhanced performance.
The benefits of dynamic stretching for young athletes include:
- The increase of body heat and blood flow loosens muscles and tendons. This improves overall power and strength performance. Static stretching actually cools necessary muscle groups and so does not actually reduce the risk of injury, and it can weaken muscles.
- It prepares the muscles by practicing the movements that will be required of them. This means the muscles are well engaged and ready for a quick sport-specific response. Basketball players who combined dynamic stretching with plyometric (jump) training show improved vertical height and agility. Static stretching usually has no relevance to the task at hand and may have a negative effect on balance and agility.
- It improves the flexibility needed for the specific sport by increasing the range of motion around the joints. Over time, this will maximize performance and reduce the risk of injury.
- While static stretching puts the body in a relaxed state, dynamic stretching offers mental preparation for young athletes by putting their bodies and minds into motion so they are ready for the competition ahead.
As a parent, it’s important to understand dynamic stretching. And we can lead by example by doing dynamic stretching ourselves.