The importance of warming up before undertaking any physically exerting activity has been discussed in great detail. While some fitness enthusiasts will be quick to discredit any value it adds, studies have demonstrated otherwise. Warm-ups prepare the mind and body, oftentimes to the point of improving performance.
Static Vs Dynamic Warm-ups
There are two kinds of warm-up exercises:
Static Warm-Ups involve stretching the body while at rest to a certain point of tension. The stretch is maintained for a few seconds, before being released. There is a characteristic bouncing effect witnessed in this kind of stretching.
Dynamic Warm-Ups are essentially moving stretches. Basically, the muscles are stretched from a static point, and then momentum is applied until the stretching limit is achieved. These stretches mimic the actual activity that will be conducted.
The Ideal Warm-Up
In the past, static stretches were perceived as the ideal. They were thought to lend the greatest benefit, since they somewhat shock the muscles into action. Recent studies have however underplayed the value of static stretching, with most of them disapproving it entirely.
Dynamic stretching has been demonstrated as more ideal.
In a study conducted by the US Military Academy on 14 men and 16 women, three warm-up protocols were performed- a no warm-up exercise, a dynamic warm-up exercise and static warm-up. At the end of a series of performance tests, it was shown that the differences between no warm-up and static warm-up were negligible. There performance scores were not better between the former and the latter tests. There was however, a relative performance enhancement after conducting dynamic warm up exercises.
This study, and others like it, has shown that dynamic warm-ups are more beneficial. They increase the range of movement, as well as the delivery of oxygen and blood to the soft tissues before exercise was begun. As the movements used in dynamic warm-up include constant motion and mimic the motions that will be used with the exercise, it is thought to be more befitting.
Should You Do Static Stretches?
Most studies have gravitated towards demonstrating the benefits of dynamic stretching and so few have supported the benefits of static stretching.
However, many sports experts and fitness professionals have asserted their stand that static stretching has its place. When conducted after exercise, they help the body cool down. Static warm-up is encouraged at the start, if it is followed by dynamic warm-up, so that the benefits of the latter can be experienced.
With the wealth of research available, one conclusion can be confidently derived- that you are better off doing both.
Dynamic stretches should form the core of your warm-up, and should precede any weight you lift at the gym. Static should be done afterwards, when you are all exercised out. By employing both in your routine, you should find your workouts easier to start. You will also find it easier to increase intensity, as your muscles will be prepared beforehand.
In both these warm-up types, do not go beyond the range of motion that is comfortable. Respecting the limits of your flexibility will help you avoid injury.
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