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Stretching is important for any athlete getting ready to hit the weights, jump on a treadmill or step on the field. Sure, it requires a little more of your time, but the end result is worth the extra minutes, because stretching not only warms up muscles and improves flexibility, it also prevents injuries. There are two efficient—but different—ways to wake up your body for activity: dynamic warm-ups and static stretching. Get the full scoop from STACK’s panel of renowned strength and conditioning experts.
Tim Robertson, Founder of Speed Strength Systems [Clientele includes Ted Ginn, Jr., Nate Clements and Donte Whitner]
Chip Smith, Founder of Competitive Edge Sports [Clientele includes Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey and Albert Haynesworth]
Todd Durkin, Todd Durkin Enterprises [Clientele includes LaDanian Tomlinson, Drew Brees and Mark Prior]
Erik Phillips, Phoenix Suns strength and conditioning coach
Al Biancani, Biancani Fitness and Physical Training [Clientele includes Derrek Lee, Chris Webber and Mike Bibby]
What is the purpose of a dynamic warm-up?
Robertson: The main purpose behind [a dynamic warm-up], in addition to increasing the blood flow to the exercise musculature, is to increase the nervous system awareness. You’re trying to stimulate that awareness to the [exercises] that are going to follow. It’s the steppingstone before you actually start doing [more] intense exercises.
What movements are associated with a dynamic warm-up?
Smith: Dynamic flexibility training involves a series of bounds, hops, skips, runs and ballistic stretches that increase your core temperature.
When should an athlete perform a dynamic warm-up?
Durkin: The dynamic warm-up, which lasts 10 to 20 minutes, is the first part of our workout; and it’s absolutely critical because it warms up your tissue temperature, activates your nervous system, and lengthens and prepares your body for the activity that’s about to take place. You’ll work out or compete better if you warm up properly and go into your workout sweating.
What is the purpose of static stretching?
Phillips: [Basically] to improve functional flexibility of hips, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
When should an athlete perform static stretches?
Smith: Static stretches, although an excellent way to round out your flexibility work, require a warm-up of their own. Elevate your body temperature first, with dynamic work; then stretch to make your muscles more pliable. Use static stretches at the end of workouts to prevent stiffness and soreness. Just 10 to 15 minutes will make a tremendous difference.
How long should an athlete hold a stretch?
Phillips: Bring each stretch to slight point of tension, and hold for 30 seconds. Make sure to perform every stretch on both sides.
Smith: If your muscles start to quiver, your body is just trying to prevent injury. It’s called the stretch reflex. Back off a little, but continue stretching the muscle.
Which method of stretching is better: dynamic or static?
Biancani: A lot of people are black and white when it comes to static and dynamic stretching. There’s a war of words going right now about which is better for a warm-up. I believe there are shades of grey on this issue, so I use a combination of both.
Durkin: You don’t want all of your pre-activity stretching to be static, but throwing in a couple stretches between dynamic exercises isn’t going to throw off your workout or competition.