The dynamics of Stretching
Sports therapists have questioned in the past 15 years whether "static stretching" — stretches held for a set period of time — work as well as "dynamic stretches" for preventing injuries.
Dynamic stretches involve repetitively moving a muscle into a stretch position (using momentum) and then moving the muscle back to a more relaxed position (think of swinging your leg forward and backward to stretch your hamstrings and hip flexors).
Researchers have found that in elite and/or younger athletes, static stretching did not result in fewer injuries. In fact, it can have an adverse reaction on an athlete's power and quickness.
Researchers now believe that dynamic stretching is better for warming up before exercise because these types of stretches increase blood flow to tissues while also gradually increasing the heart rate.
The best time for static stretching is at the end of a workout. Below is a general, dynamic, warm-up program utilized by physical therapists at Jackson County Physical Therapy.
Ankling/marching: Lift knees high as you march. As you lift your leg, keep your foot flexed upward.
Walking knee hug: Pull your knee to your chest with each step.
Cradle walk: Pull your foot toward your bellybutton while allowing your knee to fall outward (thigh is twisted outward).
Walking shin grabs/butt kickers: Pull your shin to your buttock with each step or kick your heel toward your buttock.
Frankenstein walk: Knees are kept straight as you kick each foot up in the air in front of you. You will feel your hamstrings stretch.
Backpedal: In a crouched position, step/jog/run backward on the balls of your feet.
Inchworm walk: From a pushup position, quickly "inch" your feet forward toward your hands, then walk hands out to a pushup position.
Easy skip: Regular skipping.
Skip for height: Skip as high as possible by lifting your knees toward your chest and reaching with your arm as high as possible.
Skip for distance: Skip with maximum distance between foot landings.
Lateral shuffle: Side step for speed or distance.
Grapevine: Cross one leg in front of the other.
Lunge walk: Step forward with a lunge, then repeat with other leg.
Reverse lunge walk: Do the same backward (watch your posture).
Happy feet: "Football drill"— tiny steps in place as fast as possible.
Walking heel raise: With each step, accentuate your push-off by raising your heel.
Dennis Schepmann, director of Jackson County Physical Therapy's Phoenix office, can be reached at 541-512-0757 or www.jc-pt.com