There is much debate around the issue of using static stretching (holding the muscle in a sustained, lengthened position) as a warm-up tool for injury protection. A number of research papers found that it was associated with an increased incidence of injury and impaired function in tasks requiring maximal muscular strength. There is growing evidence to show that a reduction in muscle power of up to 25% occurs for up to one hour after static stretching. Not great if you are a sprinter requiring explosive strength to push out of the blocks or a fell runner needing an extra push to get to the top of a rise. Some research also shows that runners exhibiting less flexibility may be more economic than those that are very flexible. Evidence from a study carried out in the military shows that the most flexible and the least flexible subjects have the greatest risk of injury. All of this therefore suggests that it is optimal flexibility that we are aiming for and I would suggest that optimal varies from sport to sport.
The dynamic warm-up technique has evolved in response to a growing awareness that warming up, in order to achieve optimal flexibility and performance needs to be sport specific. A dynamic warm-up mimics the technical demands on the body of the movements about to be undertaken. It comprises a series of progressive joint and limb movements, which warms the muscles and prepares them for the stretching forces demanded by your run.
Always start gently with small movements to increase the pliability of the muscles. Think of it like warming up plasticine. Gradually increase the range of movement as the exercise becomes more comfortable.
A great starting point is this Dynamic Warm-up from Nikki Kimball, a physical therapist and USATF's three times Ultra-runner of the Year. http://bcove.me/d5ejbh7l. I like this because it is simple to execute and easy to learn in preparation for the start line.
Finally- don’t discount static stretching, just save it for after and in-between your running or sport. Stretching and its different forms is a hot topic at the moment. What does it do? How does it work? Does it work? Watch this space!
Member since: 10th July 2012
I launched The Best of Richmond in 2005 and am passionate about supporting all things local. In particular, we work hard to showcase the best local businesses who give the borough its character and make...