Stretching – Part One


As a physiotherapist, I see many patients who injure themselves because they didn’t do an adequate warm up. I also see many patients who are still doing “old school” static stretches before they do a sport. It has been a few years now, that as a physiotherapist, I have been telling patients to stop doing static stretches before sports or activity and to change to a dynamic warm-up.

Why do a dynamic warm-up?

  1. Elevate Heart Rate – increasing the heart rate is vital for any warm-up. This will facilitate an increase in body temperature, blood flow and cardiac output thus preparing oneself for intense training
  2. Increase Core Temperature – this will aid in the flexibility of the muscles, joint capsules and connective tissues and prepare them for more intense activity.
  3. Enhance Blood Flow to Muscle Tissues – this ensures that oxygen rich blood is being delivered to your muscles at the onset of training.
  4. Stimulates the Nervous System
  5. Increases Mobility
  6. Decreased Risk of Injury – all of the above dynamic warm up benefits can lead to a greater level of injury resilience during higher intensity training.

Best Dynamic Warm-up Exercises

  1. Knee hugs/pulls
  2. Leg swings – front and back
  3. Leg swings – side to side
  4. Mountain Climbers
  5. High Knees
  6. Bear Crawls
  7. Jumping Jacks
  8. Squats
  9. Walking lunges
  10. Side lunges
  11. Spine Twists
  12. Arm circles

Do each of the above exercises for 30 seconds for an effective full body dynamic warm-up.

Take home message: static stretching, although good for flexibility, can be detrimental before physical performance. Static stretching induces a “neuromuscular inhibitory response” that can actually weaken the muscle for up to 30 minutes. For performance enhancement, it is best to do a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm-up is the warm up of choice now with regards to optimizing athletic performance.

Stay tuned next week for a blog on cool down stretching after an activity or sport.

Suzie Foreman is a physiotherapist who specializes in orthopaedics and sports. She currently practices at Rebalance Sports Medicine in Toronto.