From your first day in gym class, static stretching was a staple for activity. Gym teachers everywhere instructed students to touch their toes before moving onto the next static stretch. But over the years, the science of stretching has changed. As it turns out, dynamic stretching is much better for your body than static stretching, especially prior to engaging in performance-based activity.
A study by researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, revealed that athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have shown that static stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Michael McHugh, director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, “There is a neuromuscular inhibitory response to static stretching.” It can weaken a muscle for up to 30 minutes after stretching—which means it could be affecting your workout.
A proper warm-ups does two things. It loosens muscles and tendons to increase range of motion through various joints, and it increases blood flow throughout the body. Dynamic stretching accomplishes both, so it is preferred by strength and conditioning professionals.
Arizona Diamondbacks star right fielder Justin Upton uses dynamic stretching before his workout on the advice of human performance specialist Denny Locascio, who says, “All of the research out there says flexibility is not going to prevent injury. So what we like to do is a Dynamic Warm-Up, trying to mimic the movements we’re about to train for in a way that warms up the muscles, gets the blood flow going, and makes the athlete feel comfortable with what he’s about to do.” He adds that they finish their workout with a static stretch.
Watch Upton’s dynamic stretch above. Scrap your out-of-date static stretching warm-up, and replace it with dynamic movements that loosen your muscles, tendons and joints.