Stretching – An Important Part of Warm Up

Stretching – An Important Part of Warm Up

Static stretching exercises, in which you’re not moving around at all but are simply elongating a particular muscle or group of muscles, do have a place in your training programme, but their value and proper usage are often misunderstood. It’s probably best to place your static stretches at the end of your workout as part of the cool-down, not at the beginning of a training session. Static exercises help bring your body back toward a state of rest and recovery and allow you to relax and lengthen the muscles that you have put under stress during your workout. Placing static stretches at the beginning of a training session, on the other hand, tends to interrupt the natural flow of an optimal warm-up and fails to prepare you fully for the dynamic movements that follow.
Improve your workouts – and your competitive efforts
Dynamic Mobility exercises warm you up, stretch you out and keep you moving as you make the transition from resting to high energy activity.
You’ll feel a sense of warmth and relaxation in your muscles – and perspire lightly by the end of your five- to seven-minute warm-up period. Dynamic Mobility exercises work on joints from your neck to your toes – and if you’re wondering why you should attempt to expand the mobility of your neck and shoulders when the ‘prime movers’ during your workout are probably your legs, wonder no more. Your whole body functions as a unit – a ‘chain’ of inter-related parts.
For example, if your shoulders are stiff, you won’t have a quick, fluid arm swing when you are running. If you don’t have proper arm swing, your legs will slow down and so will your performance. Mobility training should be carried out before every workout. It has a cumulative effect over an extended period of time. After about four weeks or so, you should notice appreciable gains in your mobility, flexibility and ability to move smoothly during your training sessions.
Best of all, you’ll also notice an appreciable improvement in your workouts – and your competitive efforts!
What you do just before your workout begins can have a big impact on what you are able to do during your workout. Many athletes prepare for a training session by carrying out some routine stretching exercises, but it’s important to remember that stretching helps to improve your static (non-moving) flexibility and may not do such a good job at preparing your body to move quickly and efficiently. That’s why I recommend that you focus on ‘dynamic mobility exercises’ before every workout. Dynamic mobility exercises during your pre-workout warm-up period prepare your body completely for the vigorous movements that make up the main part of your workout.
Most sports involve forceful, strenuous activity, and mobility exercises and drills stimulate your nervous system, muscles, tendons, and joints in a very dynamic manner. Static stretching exercises, in which you’re not moving around at all but are simply elongating a particular muscle or group of muscles, do have a place in your training programme, but their value and proper usage are often misunderstood.

What follows is a detailed description of a group of dynamic mobility exercises designed to warm you up, stretch you out, and keep you moving as you make the transition from resting to high-energy activity.

Joint Rotations

From a standing position with your arms hanging loosely at your sides, flex, extend, and rotate each of the following joints (perform six to 10 rotations at each group of joints before moving on to the next group): (1) Fingers, (2) Wrists, (3) Elbows, (4) Shoulders, (S) Neck, (6) Trunk and Shoulder Blades, (7) Hips, (8) Knees, (9) Ankles, and (10) Feet and Toes.

Progress through this sequence of rotations at a low intensity and slow speed, and make yourself aware of the motions that occur at each joint. Tune your mind into your body, and prepare yourself mentally for engaging in physical activity (picture yourself moving smoothly and powerfully). Complete the series of joint rotations from fingers to toes in no more than three to four minutes.

Continuous Warm-Up Activity

After you’ve finished your joint rotations, move continuously at a slow, easy pace for five to seven minutes to warm up. Jogging and cycling are the most traditional exercises used for warming up, but you need not limit yourself to these two activities. As an alternative, you may alternate slow jogging with jogging backward, skipping, galloping, side-stepping, cross-over stepping (also known as carioka or grapevine movement), skipping backward, walking while swinging your arms in circles forward or backward, and/or jogging with easy ‘bum kicks’ (alternate bringing heels to the buttocks while jogging).
Each of these variations may be done in segments of 30-50 metres, interspersed with brief periods of normal jogging in between segments.

All warm-up activities should begin at a slow pace and gradually increase in intensity. You should feel a sense of warmth and relaxation in your muscles – and perspire lightly by the end of your five-to seven-minute warm-up period.

Dynamic Mobility Exercises

As your mobility increases, gradually increase the speed to make them more dynamic. Please remember to stay within your own normal range of motion, but work to increase your amplitude (range of motion) and speed of movement in small increments from week to week. Don’t find your limit (in speed or amplitude) by going past it and injuring yourself. Mobility training is for injury prevention and performance improvement – not injury promotion.

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