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Static or Dynamic Stretching for Runners - The Choice to Make?

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It’s a common notion that warm-up is a total waste of time because it takes up all of your energy and then you wouldn’t have the energy to train for the actual workout. But, honestly, that's not true. Warming up and stretching for about 5 to 10 minutes ensures that your heart rate is elevated and your body is ready for the workout. With the heart-rate elevated, it would pump more oxygen and blood throughout your body and your muscles thus would be able to deliver optimal performance. One of the most talked about and beneficial warm-up is the dynamic stretching. But, is it really good? Let’s find out.

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The word “Dynamic” literally means “characterized by constant change, activity, or progress” so it is obvious that “dynamic stretching” will also possess the same characteristics. It allows your muscles to get used to activity, thus preparing them for the rigorous workout that will follow. Dynamic warm-ups have the perfect balance between comfort and activity, which is why they’re so highly recommended by professionals.

Dynamic Stretching: The Definition

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Dynamic Stretching: The Active Warm-ups (Source)

A dynamic stretching or warm up includes stretches which are dynamic in nature. This kind of stretching involves the active movement of muscles which brings forth a stretch which however is not held in their end position. This is the exact opposite of static stretching and, usually, starts at the neutral position of the joint. Herein, the stretches are usually repeated for about 10 to 12 times.

Also, you need to note that the dynamic warm-up is different from ballistic stretches. The dynamic kind of stretching is smooth, controlled and deliberate while ballistic stretching, on the other hand, is erratic and uncontrolled.

The Meaning of Static Stretching

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Static Stretching: Not So Active (Source)

Static stretching is a kind of stretching wherein you can hold a certain kind of a stretch for about 30 seconds per each muscle group. The position is challenging but is quite comfortable. It is basically the most common form of stretching, which can be found in general fitness and is considered to be effective and safe for enhancing the overall flexibility of the body.

This isn’t as beneficial as dynamic stretching for the purpose of improving range of motion. However, these must always be done after you are done with your workout so as to cool down your body. Examples of static stretching would be a diagonal neck stretch, a stationary cobra pose, anterior shoulder stretch, etc.

As must be quite obvious by now, static stretching must be avoided before a workout session as it neither warms up your muscles and nor puts your body in the appropriate state.

Importance of Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is extremely important as it is essential to warm up appropriately before indulging in any activity. With a proper warm-up, injuries can be prevented. This is the kind of warm-up that you do prior to practicing any game or training. Most athletes ignore its importance and most of them also find it boring. However, this ignorance is what leads to most of the injuries on the field.

Dynamic stretching includes functional exercises that involve certain sport specific movements so as to cater to the needs of a particular athlete. Several warm-up programs comprising up this kind of stretching exercises have been particularly designed by continually analyzing the movements which occur during a given sport. These movements are then used so as to enhance the necessary balance required for that sport and to improve the flexibility.

Performing a Dynamic Stretch

muscles in dynamic stretch
How Dynamic Stretch Works (Source)

This kind of stretch usually begins from the neutral position of the joint. A very slow movement takes place in the limb to its end range and then very slowly returns back to the neutral position with an unconventional contraction. The antagonist muscle’s contraction allows the lengthening muscle to calm down by reciprocal inhibition.

Benefits of Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretches are favoured by a lot of athletes and all for the right reasons. It has a lot of advantages that one can benefit from. Listed below are a few dynamic stretching benefits.

  • Improves Range of Motion

Your range of motion would greatly be improved with this kind of stretching. If you are someone who feels that after a long and tiring day they cannot bend over, a dynamic warm-up routine is all you need to make your body more lithe and flexible.

  • Helps in Activating Muscles

Okay, so there are a few muscles that get activated when you work out. For instance, when you indulge in a lunge with certain changes, dynamic stretching would help in improving your legs, hips and core muscles.

  • Enhances Power and Muscular Performance

When you perform dynamic stretching before a workout, it actually enhances the power and the muscular performance due to which you can lift more weight and thereby increase your overall athletic performance. If you are trying to build more muscle or are working hard to get stronger, following a dynamic warm-up routine would benefit you greatly.

  • Improves Body Awareness

The benefits of stretching or that of a proper warm-up routine before indulging in any sports activity cannot be ignored. If you skip this warm-up, your body would take a certain amount of time to adjust and perform well. While stretching, if you are moving, it would challenge your coordination and body balance. These are some skills that would help in boosting your performance.

Dynamic or Static Stretching - The Choice to Make?

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Dynamic vs. Static: Which is Better? (Source)

When it comes to dynamic stretching vs. static stretching, various studies have shown that the athletes who adopted dynamic stretching into their routine did show a significant amount of improvement in vertical jump height. However, static stretching prior to the training negatively impacted the vertical jump height. Of course, there could be several reasons involved that might have caused this difference.

These could be improved efficiency of the contraction, increased muscle temperature that increases the neural drive and an increased responsiveness of the muscle’s motor units.

Static stretching increases the compliance of the muscles that can affect its ability to accumulate elastic energy that in turn can impact and diminish the generated force. The movement involved in dynamic kind of stretching on the other hand aids in improving the efficiency of movement.

Injury Prevention with Dynamic Stretching

Pre workout stretches or dynamic warm-up before an exhausting activity has been said to reduce the likelihood enduring an injury as opposed to static stretching or any other kind of stretching. This is because it allows the muscles to tolerate the stress of a particular activity with much less stress.

The dynamic exercises designed particularly for a certain activity would prepare the central nervous system of the body so as to activate the motor units and help it with the required coordination.

Many studies have revealed that the rates of injury might be significantly lesser because with such stretching exercises, you would be practicing the movement patterns and that would help in eliminating the risk of inefficient movements.

Dynamic Stretching - 7 Warm-up Exercises to Do Before a Run

Given below is a dynamic stretching routine that you can follow. Most of them don't require any equipment and would prepare your entire body for the training that you about to undertake. This is a very basic routine and can be used as an effective warm-up routine for a lot of activities.

However, you must remember to complete at least 10 to 12 repetitions of each of the exercises for a minimum of 1 to 2 rounds. So, without any further ado, let’s get started.

1. Knee to Chest

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The Knee to Chest

Dynamic stretching exercise can be done either by moving forward (walking) or while remaining stationary (lying down). Just as the name suggests, you are supposed to bring your knees up to your chest before striking your foot on the ground.

If you are performing this stretch while lying on your back,

  • Keep your knees bent and your feet absolutely flat on the floor.
  • Now, slowly bring one of your knees close to your chest by hugging your shin while keeping your other foot flat on the floor. Your lower back should be pressed to the floor.
  • Remain in this position for about 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Now, relax and lower your knee back to the starting position.
  • Repeat the same with the other leg. Keep alternating and repeat about 4 times with each leg.

2. Lunge Twist

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The Lunge Twist

This is an excellent lower body exercise which helps in strengthening the legs and glutes and helps improve the flexibility of the body.

  • To begin this stretch, stand upright with your feet kept hip-width apart and your arms lifted right at the front.
  • Now, take a step forward with either of your legs, let’s say your left leg and bend both your knees just as you do a lunge.
  • While remaining this position, rotate your torso towards the left. Return back to the starting position and repeat the same on the other side.
  • You can even do this by holding a dumbbell in your hand. It’s up to you to choose as to how you want to do it.
  • Repeat this for about 4-5 times.

3. T-Push Ups

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The T-Push Up (Source)

When we talk about upper body dynamic stretches, the T-Push up is an excellent exercise that helps in warming up the upper body while also activating the entire core.

  • To perform this exercise, lie down straight on the floor supported by your hands just as you would do for a standard push-up.
  • Now perform a powerful push-up by lowering your body towards the ground.
  • As you push back and come back are coming back up, lift one of your arms off the ground (let’s say your right arm) and extend it towards the ceiling while twisting your torso too.
  • Roll onto the sides of your feet and keep your arms and hips stable.
  • Now, return back to the starting position and repeat this exercise but this time by raising the alternate arm so as to complete a set. Repeat for about 4 times.

4. High Kicks

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The High Kick

This dynamic stretch for legs helps in warming up the hamstring and improving your range of motion. This stretching exercise can be done either by moving forward or while remaining stationary.

  • To begin this exercise, stand upright with your feet kept shoulder width apart. Now, raise one of your legs as high as you possibly can. You can even extend your hand out and keep them absolutely straight (If you are kicking your right leg, it should be your left hand that’s extended).
  • Now kick high so that your toes hit your arms. You can even try to kick higher but keep your body under control.
  • Return back to the starting position and repeat it with the other leg. Continue alternating legs till you complete a set.

5. Jump Squats

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The Jump Squat

These work great in warming up the lower body. This exercise is quite fast and hence requires a much higher degree of power and force production as compared to the other exercises.

  • To begin, stand with your feet kept shoulder width apart and your hands behind your head or your hips. You could even cross your hands over your chest. See what feels more convenient to you.
  • Now, while keeping your chest up and back absolutely straight, squat down until your hips are almost parallel to the ground.
  • Then, pressing the ball of your feet, jump as high up in the air as you possibly can while using your thighs as springs.
  • Exhale while you are doing this. Just as your feet touch the floor again, bend down into a deep squat. Remember to land softly and keep repeating till you complete a set.

6. Back Roll

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The Back Roll (Source)

This exercise is really good for stretching your hamstrings and back.

  • Sit down on the floor with your legs extended.
  • Now, extend your arms towards your feet and attempt to touch your toes.
  • Once you do that, roll back on the floor until you reach the back of your neck and take your legs off the floor and up towards your chest while keeping them extended towards the ceiling.
  • As you get back up, keep going forward to touch your toes again so as to stretch your hamstrings and back.
  • Keep repeating for about 30 seconds.

7. Hip Stretch with a Twist

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Hip Stretch with a Twist

This exercise works great in opening up the hips and stretching your upper and middle back along with your core.

  • Bend down in a push-up position with your back flat and your toes and hands squarely on the ground.
  • Now, bring one of your knees forward so that your foot is absolutely flat on the ground exactly behind the plane of your hands.
  • Once you have done that, extend your opposite side arm straight up so that it is perpendicular (meaning it should be extended towards the ceiling) to the floor.
  • Open up at the hip in order to turn your upper torso to that side while keeping your core tight.
  • Hold your position for a few seconds and then bring back your hand to the starting position and kicks your legs backward.
  • Repeat the same on the opposite side and keep alternating sides for about 30 seconds.

Tips to Remember

  • Do not ever force a stretch. If you feel that your body cannot go beyond a certain point, do not do it.
  • Just because other are doing it doesn’t mean that you have to exert your body too much.
  • Everyone has a different body and each person has their own capabilities. Understand your body and perform the stretches accordingly.
  • Remember that overstretching can cause muscle tear.
  • Have a control over your breathing. Never hold your breath while you are doing your stretches as this can cause your body to tense up and this would hamper your stretching capability. Breathe normally.

Summing Up

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Dynamic Warm-ups: The Key to Efficient Workouts

You might, at some or the other point, have thought that warming up isn’t as necessary. But, that’s not true. It is essential and helps in preparing your body for the actual workout. This in turn also improves your body’s flexibility so that it can perform optimally and also helps in preventing injuries. Therefore, make it a point to devote at least 5 to 10 minutes of your time towards dynamic stretching. After all, it is better to be safe than to be sorry about it later.

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