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Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching: What Stretch Routine is Best for Athletes?

by Jason Ulisse December 16, 2012

Stretching Programs For Athletes

Recently I had a conversation with a local high school varsity basketball coach. One question he asked me was “What is the proper way for my players to warm and stretch before practice or a game?”

This initiated a very candid discussion on how the latest research has indicated that static stretching – stretching individual muscles for 30 seconds and then releasing them – is actually detrimental to optimal physical performance. This same research has indicated that dynamic stretching – performing exercises that are moving and stretching the muscles at the same time – is much more conducive to maximizing physical performance. The coach then asked me to put together a stretching routine and demonstrate it to his players before an upcoming practice. While developing the team’s dynamic stretching program, I realized that this is a very good topic for everyone to understand as it could help prevent injuries from occurring in sports as well as many strenuous activities such as yard work and snow shoveling.

As I stated before, the best way to prepare your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for strenuous activity is to actually get them used the movements they are going to be performing during the activity. For simplicity, let’s use running as our example today. When you go for a 30 minute run, your legs swing forward and backward thousands of times fairly rhythmically every 1-2 seconds! Your quadriceps and hamstring muscles (among others) are contracting and lengthening continuously during these leg swing movements. So how does a static stretch of holding hamstring/quadriceps stretch for 30 seconds before running translate to the activity you are about to perform? IT DOESN’T! You would be much better served if you were to perform a dynamic stretch routine standing leg swings for 30 seconds on each leg as it mimics the movement you will be performing thousands of times while you run. The purpose of any warm-up activity is to prepare the muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the specific activity you are about to perform and to warm them up by increasing blood flow. Dynamic stretching has been found to meet both of those criteria much better than static stretching. This will help to decrease your chance of getting injured while performing strenuous activity.

The example I used above is just one of many different exercises you can use to properly warm up for running. There are also many other activities in life that dynamic stretching would be very appropriate to perform to help prevent injuries. Hopefully this was helpful in explaining the rationale for dynamic stretching over static stretching as a warm-up. I would recommend you consult with a physical therapist to develop the most appropriate dynamic stretching routine that is designed for your specific needs and situation.

Our expertise is in the field of musculoskeletal movement and function. Please do not hesitate to contact SOPTRI to make a PT appointment for all of your musculoskeletal injury needs and prevention.

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