Exercise stretches, both dynamic and static stretches, compose the foundation of a good pre-exertion warm up routine. So why do we stretch? Why do we warm up at all?
By performing warm up exercises and stretches, we literally do just that, warm up the body. While our body temperature won’t rise by a large amount, nevertheless, the temperature in the muscles can, and should, be elevated to help loosen muscles and dilate blood vessels.
That dilation leads to easier blood flow. This facilitates the delivery of oxygen and the removal of waste products from the active muscles.
Muscles that are warmed up are also more flexible, less stiff and more resilient. This helps prepare the body for high performance activities, as well as to reduce the risk of injury from stretched tendons and tears. The extra warmth also acts to lubricate joints, further reducing the risks.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Workout
Good exercise stretches will also raise the heart rate, the respiration level and the overall metabolism. Among other things, this works to deliver nutrients to the muscles for the exertion to come. No matter the exercise, sport or job, having a fit cardiovascular system and flexible joints and muscles are essential for high performance activities. If you’re just starting out or not feeling very fit, it’s always best to take it slow rather than pushing too hard. Consult your medical physician if you are interested in increasing your level of fitness, just to be safe.
Static And Dynamic Stretches
Static stretches, stretching while at rest, are helpful for the body overall. The well used ‘stretch and hold’ method. Holding for thirty seconds is a good amount to start with. You should feel the muscles strain just a bit as you stretch, but not so much that it causes actual pain.
Dynamic stretching is simply light activity based around the upcoming exercise within your normal range of motion. Be careful not to confuse dynamic with ballistic stretches, or ‘bouncing’ stretches, as those have been shown to be harmful to both muscles and joints. Dynamic stretching is commonly preferred these days in most professional sports over static stretches, as it both limbers the body and gets the cardiovascular system working. It also helps prepare the mind for the activity ahead.
Examples of dynamic stretching exercises would be a golfer spending a few minutes on low-speed, low-impact swings and gradually ramping up the speed and power. Or a runner stretching the legs followed by a brisk walk and then a slow lap around the track.
Take it slow. Don’t warm up too much or too fast. The idea is to prepare for the workout, not perform one.
By the end of your exercise stretches, you’ll be ready to perform your sport or workout to the best of your ability with minimized risk of injury.