Maximizing Performance and Preventing Injury: The Science Behind Dynamic Warm-Up and Static Stretches
As a physiotherapist, we have come to know the importance of proper warm-up exercises before any physical activity. Not only does it help prevent injury, but it can also improve performance. There are two types of warm-up exercises: dynamic and static. In this post, we will explore the differences between the two and when to use them, as well as the science behind why they work.
Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises
A dynamic warm-up exercise involves movement that increases blood flow, heart rate, and body temperature. These movements can range from simple exercises like walking or jogging in place to more complex movements like lunges and jumping jacks. Dynamic warm-up exercises help prepare the body for physical activity by activating and engaging the muscles.
Research has shown that a dynamic warm-up can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that athletes who performed a dynamic warm-up had better sprint performance and agility compared to those who performed a static warm-up or no warm-up at all (1). Another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that a dynamic warm-up reduced the risk of injury in football players compared to a static warm-up (2).
A static stretch involves holding a position without movement for a period of time. Static stretches can help improve flexibility and range of motion, but they are not as effective at preparing the body for physical activity. When you hold a static stretch, you are not increasing blood flow or heart rate, which means that your muscles may not be fully prepared for physical activity.
It's important to note that static stretches are best done after physical activity when the muscles are already warm and pliable. Holding a static stretch for 15-30 seconds can help improve flexibility, range of motion, and reduce muscle tension. However, doing static stretches before physical activity can actually decrease performance and increase the risk of injury.
Combining Static Stretches and Dynamic Warm-Up
To properly prepare your body for physical activity, it's important to start with a dynamic warm-up. Doing a dynamic warm-up first will help prepare your body for physical activity by increasing blood flow, heart rate, and body temperature. This will activate and engage your muscles, making them more pliable and ready for movement.
The science behind why dynamic warm-up and static stretching work is related to the concept of "muscle-tendon unit compliance." When you perform dynamic movements, you are "pre-stretching" your muscles and tendons, making them more compliant and ready for physical activity (3). This compliance allows for greater force production, which can improve performance. Static stretching, on the other hand, can increase flexibility by decreasing muscle stiffness, but may also decrease muscle-tendon unit compliance and reduce force production, leading to decreased performance (3).
So keep in mind- a proper warm-up is essential before any physical activity. While static stretches can help improve flexibility and range of motion, they are not as effective at preparing the body for physical activity as a dynamic warm-up. So save these for after your workout and save yourself some sore muscles!!
- McCrary JM, Ackermann BJ, Halaki M. A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. Br J Sports Med.
- Beedle, B. B., Mann, C. L., & Williams, C. A. (2007). The effects of a pre-participation dynamic warm-up on lower extremity kinematics and performance in female collegiate athletes. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 6(1), 52–58. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3862454/
- Shrier, I. (2004). Does stretching improve performance? A systematic and critical review of the literature. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 14(5), 267–273. https://journals.lww.com/cjsportsmed/Abstract/2004/09000/Does_Stretching_Improve_Performance__A_Systematic.9.aspx