The debate of static or dynamic stretching has been raising eyebrows for the past few years in regards to proper and effective sports warm-ups. Static stretching refers to bringing your muscle to a point of tension (when you feel the pull in it) and holding it there for around 30-45 seconds. Dynamic stretching, while still bringing muscles to a point of tension, involves doing so through movement.
For a very long time, the thought of most trainers and coaches was that it was key to perform static stretches to loosen up the body before participating in any sport. Warm ups would consist of multiple static stretches, some cardio and some sport specific exercises. Recent research however, actually demonstrates that static stretching prior to any sport actually reduces an athlete’s performance as it decreases their explosiveness, and power. The negative effect isn’t just on performance either, certain studies actually demonstrate an increase in the number of injuries after static stretching. Dynamic flexibility has therefore been viewed as the new go-to for warm ups.
Dynamic exercises and stretching done prior to sports events has been shown to have the opposite effect of static stretching. While increasing power, agility and overall performance, dynamic stretching has also proven to decrease the number of severe injuries suffered throughout a sports season. It allows one to train more sport specific movements, it increasing muscle length through a range of motion the athlete needs and increases heart rate. Despite this research demonstrating how much more beneficial dynamic stretching it, many coaches still use the older theories focused on static stretching.
Is static stretching ever useful then? Research is controversial on the benefits of static stretching, but the overall thought seems to be that the BEST time to use this is after a workout as part of a cool down. This will not affect the athlete’s next performance and will not change any risk of injury while potentially providing effects of lengthening the muscles.
A dynamic warm up should consist of three parts to it in order to prepare an athlete for a successful outing.
- The athlete should begin warming up by performing exercises that promote flexibility through movement
Examples for a sport such as soccer include: Hip openers, high knees, butt kicks, knee hugs
- Movement Prep
- These movements will replicate what an athlete will perform during the game
For example (soccer): directional cuts, forward/ backwards jogging, jockeying
- Skill Prep
- This part consists of performing skills SPECIFIC to the sport
For example (soccer): possession scrimmage, one touch passes
Here is a video of our suggestion for a Dynamic Hockey Warm Up:
Stay tuned for a video on our YouTube channel that will go through a comprehensive soccer warm up and all three areas of a good dynamic warm up as listed above!
Written by Tamar Kideckel, MScPT, BAScKIN, Diploma in Fitness & Health Promotion