Recently I wrote about the different methods of stretching: static, ballistic, and dynamic.
Of the many important differences was when to perform each type of stretching since this still seems confusing to some athletes, parents and coaches.
We still see athletes doing a very short, light warm-up, followed by static stretching before the game or practise. But this is not the best way to prepare the athlete physically or mentally.
A better approach would be to perform a dynamic stretching session in the warm-up.
Dynamic stretching in warm-ups have been used by track and field athletes for years, but have not widely been practiced within other sports. But now all good strength and conditioning coaches have adopted these methods and are using them at the university and professional levels.
One big benefit with a dynamic warm-up is that it doesn’t take any more time than the more traditional stretching method, but is much more beneficial for the muscles and it prepares your nervous system for the demands of the sport.
The specific advantages of a dynamic warm-up, by comparison with the more traditional sit-and-stretch routine, are many. It involves continuous movement, which maintains warmth in your body and muscles and prepares the muscles and joints in a more sport specific manner than static stretching.
One of the biggest benefits is that it warms up your nervous system, which enhances coordination and motor ability.
The nervous system can also fatigue, just like muscles, and that’s why near the end of a game players miss easy shots, they slow down, coordination begins to fail, and sometimes this is when injuries happen.
You should begin your session with a general cardiovascular warm-up lasting five to 10 minutes or until you have broken a light sweat. This can be done by light jogging, skipping, jump rope or even performing different footwork patterns in a speed ladder. Skipping is also great because it continues heating the body while helping to prime the nervous system.
There are also various additional drills athletes can perform: lunge walking, walking knee hugs, ankle pops, high knee runs with arm swings, backward running, various forms of lateral slides, and even push-ups will help prepare the upper body muscles.
It is very important to note the athlete should not use jerky, forced movements to try to increase the range of motion beyond what is comfortable as it can cause injury.
• Kerry Senchyna holds a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology.