Why you need to do a dynamic warm-up – The Irish Times

Over twenty years ago, a pre-workout warm-up usually meant a series of long, slow, sedentary stretches. Many 1990s children – wearing school-coloured cotton T-shirts – sat with one knee awkwardly bent behind them in a hurdle pose before heading off to practice. But, in recent years, exercise science has coalesced around a better way to prepare your body for exercise: the dynamic warm-up.

A dynamic warm-up is a set of controlled, accelerated movements that can help make your workout safer and more effective, said Alvaro López Samanes, assistant professor and international coordinator of physiotherapy at Francisco de Vitoria University, Madrid, who has studied them in tennis players.

Research suggests that dynamic warm-ups improve agility, speed, and overall performance for a wide range of sports, including tennis, baseball, and running. They also seem to reduce the risk of injury. In a fast-moving, direction-changing sport like football, a personalized dynamic warm-up reduces the risk of injury by approximately 30% in a 2017 research review.

Although Olympic sprinters and World Cup players do them before competition, dynamic warm-ups aren’t just for elite athletes. In fact, “people who don’t move athletically very often need dynamic warm-ups,” says Emily Hutchins, a personal trainer. If you jump straight from your office chair or bed into a workout, you might end up with a hunched posture, not to mention cold, tense muscles that don’t move smoothly. Dynamic warm-ups bridge the gap.

Chances are you’ve updated your workout gear since gym class at school — here’s how to modernize your warm-up, too.

1. How does a dynamic warm-up work?

Dynamic warm-ups involve a series of exercises, at least some of which are dynamic stretches that allow the joints to go through their full range of motion. Imagine a sprinter jumping down the track, a goalie shuffling down the field, or a playmaker moving in the motions of a free throw.

Dynamic movements raise your body temperature and begin to gently engage your soft tissues. Together, this heat and stress produce what’s called a thixotropic effect, said David Behm, a professor and exercise scientist at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation. Muscles and tendons become less viscous and move more fluidly, much like shaking a bottle dislodges stuck-on ketchup, or the way honey thins out when you stir it into a cup of hot tea.

Because of its rapid pace, dynamic stretching also activates intracellular sensors called muscle spindles, which then amplify electrical currents that help your mind and muscles communicate and make your muscles more responsive, Behm said. An opposite effect occurs when you hold long, slow stretches: those same spindles are suppressed, slowing the messages between your brain and body to help reduce tension and tightness. That’s why static stretching by itself — while important for range of motion and injury reduction — doesn’t prepare you for a workout, he said.

Along with the immediate benefits of dynamic warm-ups, López Samanes said that over time, improved agility and coordination can also reduce your risk of injury. Research suggests doing these pre-workout routines at least twice a week for 10-12 weeks could protect muscles, joints, and bones from damage.

2. How long should a warm-up last?

Good news for those in a hurry: as little as eight minutes will be enough for a dynamic warm-up, said López Samanes. In fact, if you extend it for up to 25 minutes, you may feel tired before your workout.

Based on the research, he suggested six to eight exercises, each performed for about 15 to 30 seconds, two to three times. Start relatively easy and increase your effort and intensity.

3. What exercises should you include?

Start with lower body movements. The large muscles in your legs and core generate more heat, which raises your body temperature all over, López Samanes said.

From there, tailor your warm-up to the specifics of your workout. “You have to practice the moves you’re going to do,” Behm said.

If your sport or activity involves rapid changes in direction – think squash or football – include agility-based and side-to-side movements. And if you’re about to take on something with an aerial component — like basketball, softball, or rock climbing — include quick moves that activate your shoulder complex, the network of muscles and tendons around it. of this often injured joint.

To get started, here’s a basic routine that works for a range of workouts:

  • Steps right leg: From a standing position, kick your right foot straight out in front of you to about waist height, stretching your hamstrings. Bring it back down, then repeat with the left leg, stepping forward.
  • Front lunges: Start standing with your feet together. Lift your right foot off the floor and take a big step forward. Bend your right knee and lower your hips until your right thigh is parallel to the floor – or until the position becomes awkward, whichever comes first. Try to keep your back straight, your upper body still, and your back foot planted. Return to starting position and repeat with left leg.
  • Hip Cradles: Sitting all day can tighten the hip flexors; this exercise activates and lengthens them. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then step forward with your left leg. Lift your right knee and rotate your leg so your shin is parallel to the floor, grabbing your right ankle with your left hand near your hip. Keep your right hand on your right knee, gently “rocking” and pulling the leg toward your chest. Release, step forward with the right leg and repeat on the other side.
  • Side slits: Standing, take a big step to the right, keeping your toes facing forward and your heels pressed to the floor. Bend your hips and right knee, shifting your weight onto your right foot. Continue until your left leg is almost fully extended and your right knee is hovering over the second toe of your right foot. Come back to standing and repeat on the left side.
  • Side shuffle with overhead reach: Keeping your toes pointed forward, your torso high, and your weight on the balls of your feet, shuffle to one side, then the other. As you do this, raise your arms above your head and lower them, as if doing a jumping jack.
  • Rotations of the thoracic spine: This move opens up your mid-back and elongates your chest, counteracting the effects of sagging on screens. Lie on your left side with your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees and your arms stretched out in front of you, palms touching. Reach your right arm up and down to your right side, rotating your core rather than your hips. Return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side.
  • Additional Credit: Add Foam Roller: If you have a little more time and want to take your warm-up to the next level, spend a few minutes with a self-massage tool such as a foam roller. Some studies suggest that combining foam rolling with a dynamic warm-up can further improve agility and coordination. Hutchins instructs his clients to roll out first, to stimulate blood flow before beginning their dynamic movements; López Samanes saves it for later when warmer muscles can improve your range of motion. – This article originally appeared in the New York Times

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