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Dynamic Warm-Up vs. Static Stretching

This article was written by GPW Featured Expert Brian Lebo.

When I travel off-site to work with groups, teams, and organizations, I always ask about their pre-activity routine. Specifically, I ask about what they do (non-sport-specific) to warm-up before a workout, practice, or game? Invariably, the answer involves some form of static stretching. And why not? Static stretching has been helping athletes to “get loose” longer than any of us can remember (it was certainly part of my warm-up, decades ago)… right? Well, the reality is, stretching elongates and relaxes your muscles, and does not necessarily prepare them to generate force. When compared to static stretching, dynamic warm-up (or, movement prep) is a better pre-activity strategy for increasing strength and power output; improving running endurance; and is just as effective for injury prevention.

There are several articles supporting Dynamic Warm-up/Movement Prep vs. Static Stretching:

With regard to the statement that static stretching elongates and relaxes muscles, Covert, et. al. found, in their study – Ballistic vs. Static Stretching – “The static stretching group demonstrated a statistically greater increase in hamstring muscle length than the ballistic stretching group. No injuries or complications were attributed to either stretching group.” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)

In their article, The Effect of Acute Stretching on Agility Performance, Van Gelder and Bartz concluded that “Dynamic warm-up/movement prep significantly improves agility performance, compared with static stretching or no stretching.” (JSCR)

Frantz and Ruiz compared dynamic warm-up vs. static warm-up, on vertical jump (VJ) and standing long jump (LJ) in collegiate athletes, in their article, Effects of Dynamic Warm-up on Lower Body Explosiveness (JSCR), asserting the following:

• Dynamic warm-up participants jumped significantly higher (VJ).

“Individuals jumped significantly further (LJ) after no warm-up compared to static warm-up.”

• “Dynamic warm-up increases both VJ height and LJ distance.”

• Athletes can improve vertical jump “by simply switching from a static warm-up routine to a dynamic routine.”

Pacheco, et. al. studied the short-term effects of different stretching exercises during the warm-up period on the lower limbs in their article, The Acute Effects of Different Stretching Exercises on Jump Performance (JSCR). The authors compared no stretching, static stretching, and “active stretching” (dynamic warm-up). “The results of this study suggest that active stretching can be recommended during the warm-up for explosive force disciplines.”

The effect of static stretching on cycling economy (muscle endurance) was examined by Wolfe, et al. (JSCR), in their study, Time Course of the Effects of Static Stretching on Cycling Economy . When comparing no stretching with static stretching, they concluded “… coaches and highly trained endurance cyclists should exclude static stretching immediately before moderate intensity cycling because it reduces acute cycling economy.”

Dynamic warm-up/movement prep will better prepare your muscles to generate force when you workout, practice, or play. The best warm-up is one in which you use the same movements you will need in those activities. For example, a pre-game (non-sport-specific) warm-up for basketball players should include running, backpedaling, shuffling, jumping, hopping, and other exercises that emphasize acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction.

Where does stretching fit into your routine? Stretching (and the foam roll, which I’ll discuss in another post) is still a great post-activity strategy. Static-stretching – after a workout, practice, or game – won’t necessarily prevent muscle soreness, but it should be part of your post-activity recovery plan. The benefits of stretching after your workout (according to the Mayo Clinic) include:

• Increased flexibility and joint range of motion

• Improved circulation

• Better posture

• Stress relief

• Enhanced coordination

Brian Lebo is the owner and director of Athletic Performance Training Center and a National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He specializes in helping athletes improve their performance through the development of strength, speed, agility, and athleticism. Visit his website Athletic Performance Training Center Follow Brian on Twitter Brian Lebo

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About the author
Aaron Sorenson