As a relatively active sports person I regularly see people trying to warm up before a game. As a physiotherapist I also tend to take particular notice on what specific movements each individual is doing. More often than not, a lot of people are standing or sitting in one position holding a stretch. This may have been the norm in the past, but as science develops so do our practices!
There are various types of stretches (static, dynamic, ballistic, proprioceptive neuromuscular Facilitation etc.). Static and dynamic are the more common ones, while the others are better suited in the physiotherapy practice.
Static Stretching – This type of stretch refers to getting into a position that lengthens a muscle and maintaining that position for a period of time to elongate it.
Dynamic Stretching – This type of stretch is done by repetitive movement between the two extreme ends of a muscle’s length. In other words, a limb is moved from one end where a muscle is at its shortest range to the other end at its longest range and backs. It is usually done slowly and controlled.
What type of stretching should we do before physical activity? In the past static stretches were used prior to exercising to help lengthen our muscles and warm up our joints.
This was thought to be able to help prevent injuries and improve performance. This made sense for really small many injuries occur due to overly tight muscles. Yet recently through further research it has been shown that static stretching directly before a game has no observable effects in preventing injuries. *Directly is highlighted because it isn’t to say static stretching is bad. Maintaining length in your muscles is still vital to good physical health. Everyone should be doing dynamic stretches to warm up their muscles pre-exercise so that by game time your body has already been accustomed to all the extremes of movements it will encounter.
On top of this, static stretches has also been shown to actually reduce muscular power. Now why would a competitor want t oreduce their ability to perform and play worse than they should?
Your muscles uually feel more tight after a game. This is when statoc stretching should be used.
The take home message I that dynamic stretches are more suitable before training sessions and games, which static stretches should be left for afterwards. This is what current research and health service is teaching us.