6 Ways to Stretch Before Exercising

When your coach, trainer or instructor tells you to warm up, what does that really mean? What should be happening is that you are engaging in the activities you’ll be performing in your workout to literally “warm up” the muscles you will be using.

Studies reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicate that trading in traditional, stationary stretches for more active ones can increase circulation, boost muscle temperature, stimulate muscles and nerves and lubricate joints. The result: better performance during exercise or competition.

Stationary vs. Static

As you may know, stationary stretches are done by moving into a stretch position and holding it for 15 to 30 seconds. With dynamic stretches, you use your whole body and gently move the muscles through a range of motion rather than holding them in one place.

Sports medicine specialist Michael Ross, MD, of the Rothman Institute at Jefferson says that these findings form the basis of some good advice – but that they aren’t necessarily surprising.

“As part of a warm-up, stretching had never really been confirmed to be useful,” Dr. Ross explains. What is useful, according to Dr. Ross, is to move the muscles more slowly, less vigorously and in a ‘non-jerky’ manner.

The key, he says, is to help your muscles work more efficiently. When muscles are warm, the body is better able to provide them with oxygen than when they’re cold.

Get moving

You may want to warm up with slow walking or bicycling at a slow pace for a few minutes – followed by a few dynamic stretches. Some ideas include:

  • Shoulder roll. Put your arms at your sides and move both shoulders in a circular motion forward and then backward.
  • Self-hug. Cross your arms across the front of your chest and give yourself a “hug,” then swing your arms open. Alternate the “top” arm each time.
  • Windmill. Extend both your arms, one in front of your body and one in back. Move them in a large circular motion – clockwise and then counterclockwise – while keeping them straight.
  • Trunk circle. With hands on your waist, flex your hips forward, left, back and right.
  • Side leg swing. Stand and face the wall. Swing your right leg out to your right side, then swing it across the front of your body toward your left side. Come back to the starting position. Repeat the stretch using your left leg.
  • Forward leg swing. Stand perpendicular to the wall with your right hand on the wall for stability. Swing your right leg forward then behind you, keeping the knee extended. Return to the starting position. Turn so your left hand is on the wall and repeat the stretch with the left leg.

If you want an edge on the competition or you just want to take your exercising to a new level, make sure you add a warm-up routine to your workout.

Learn more about the Sports Medicine Center at Jefferson.

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