August 18, 2011 Posted by Sean in Body

How to warm up properly: Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Warm Up

I went to school with a guy that would pick me up in his car before the gym with a coffee in hand and the heat blaring. No joke- getting in his car was like stepping into a sweat lodge.

“Gotta get the blood flowing man,” was all he’d say as I toweled off my forehead.

My buddy was onto something about getting your blood flowing before an intense workout, and although he did get his body temp elevated, his pre-workout routine was far from perfect.

We get a ton of questions regarding the topic of how to warm up properly before a workout and here’s what I have to say on the subject:

Warming up prepares your muscles, ligaments and joints for the disruption caused by a intense workout. If you don’t take the time to warm up before a workout, you will eventually experience a strain, pull or tear injury that can keep you out of the gym for days or even months.

A general warm up involves 3-5 minutes of light cardio followed by a dynamic (moving) warm up that involves pairing stretching with movement. The purpose is to prepare the muscles and joints for movements similar to those in your upcoming workout. You should always be under control with dynamic stretching and ensure a full range of motion.

Static (still) stretching should always be done after weight or interval training session and never before. Static stretching before a workout can make joints too limber and actually decrease the force potential of your muscles. While you workout, the continuous contractions cause your muscles to shorten. Stretching for a period of 5-10 minutes at the end of your workout will help reset muscle length and enhance recovery.

If you don’t stretch at the end of a workout, your contracted muscles stay short and the next time you try to work them they have less power and you are less efficient. These shortened “tense” muscles are those that we get worked on by a massage therapist, physiotherapist or osteopath to help them “loosen up.”

Taking the time to stretch after your workout will not only save you injury time and increase the efficiency of your next workout, it might save you a ton of money on pain relief.

Remember, as your age increases so should the amount of time spent on flexibility.

Here’s an example of a general and dynamic warm up to be performed before a workout:

  • 3-5 minutes of cardio: jumping rope, stationary bike, walking, light jog, rowing machine, etc…
  • Dynamic warm up: Cat Camel, Prisoner Squats, Leg Swings and Shoulder Dislocations, etc… Perform 8-10 repetitions of each exercise in sequence for 2-3 sets and your ready to move onto your workout.
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    Here’s an example of static stretching to be performed following a workout:

  • 5-10 minutes of static stretching focusing on major muscle groups: Hip Flexor, Glute, Calf, Hamstring, Chest, etc… Hold for 15 seconds (without bouncing), 2-3 times per side.
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    A quick recap:

    The rules are as follows; if you’re cold you need to warm up with some dynamic movements. Once you finish a workout you need to cool down and re-set muscle length with some static stretching. Not too complicated.

    Add these simple pre (dynamic warm up) and post (static stretching) workout routines before working out and you’ll be able to workout harder, recover faster and stay injury free.

    Stay strong,

    Sean

    PS. Check out this link of Drew performing a simple version of a dynamic warm up in this 20 Minute Fat Blasting Circuit.

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