The fall season is quickly approaching and young athletes are starting to train and prepare to take the football and soccer field, volleyball court, or the cross country and golf course. A key to preparing for competition is a proper warm-up and stretching routine.
Scott Helton, Certified Athletic Trainer and Director of Sports Medicine and Athletic Training Services at St. Elizabeth Healthcare describes how adding dynamic stretching to your routine can help boost your performance during competition.
“Dynamic stretching is sport-specific, it prepares your body to do the activity you are about to start,” says Scott. “By warming up and activating the muscles you will use during competition, you should increase range of motion and speed over time.”
What is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretching is basically going through the motions you will use during competition. Dynamic stretching should not only be sport-specific but also functional. Scott explains, “During dynamic stretching, you use a movement pattern to gain a stretch to a specific set of muscles. For example, a baseball pitcher uses the shoulder and elbow. For a dynamic stretch, I would have them use an elastic band and replicate the pitching motion slowly with tension to achieve a stretch in the shoulder and extension in the elbow.”
In contrast, static stretching, which most of us are familiar with, involves holding a stretch for a set amount of time without moving. Some muscle areas lend themselves to static stretching and are still recommended. Scott says, “Some areas still need isolated, static stretching. It is difficult to do a dynamic exercise to warm up your neck muscles but football players and golfers should stretch their neck muscles during warm up, so a static stretch would be beneficial.”
Scott explains that when warming up you should think about the activity you are doing and do something that corresponds to that activity. He adds, “Soccer and volleyball will have very different warm-up stretches. Soccer is a lower extremity sport, and for volleyball you use your shoulders a lot. So the focus during warm-up should be different.”
An often overlooked aspect of stretching and warm up—proper form and technique. “Form and technique are paramount. You should stretch with a purpose, don’t go through the motions. There is a purpose—injury prevention and top performance,” says Scott.
At end of a warm up, you should hit the field ready to go. You want to be at peak performance from the start.
When Stretching is Painful
Stretching should never be painful. You should feel the muscle stretch but it should never cause pain. If you do feel pain, that could be a symptom of an injury.
Scott says, “Athletes need to be careful to not interrupt tightness as a need for stretching. It can actually be an injury that should be evaluated by a sports medicine specialist.”
If you are interested in learning more about dynamic stretching or think you may have sustained an injury during athletic training, call the St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine department at (859) 301-5600.