There is a distinct difference between warming up and stretching. One is dynamic and the other is static. Dynamic movements get your heart rate bouncing, pushing oxygen through the blood to wake up and warm up the muscles. Stretching immediately increases flexibility, but could leave them cold.
Static stretching: taking the muscle to its longest length possible, then holding it there for some time.
Dynamic warm up: moving the muscle from point A, neutral, to point B, the farthest the muscle and joint extend, then repeating it with fluidity.
So, here’s the deal. One isn’t better than the other. In fact, they are best paired together. Athletes and exercise participants need flexibility and mobility.
A muscular skeletal study published a few years ago focused on the flexibility and mobility of the hamstring, a big muscle people have been likely to pull. Researchers found that static stretching upped the ante for flexibility quite a bit, but dynamic warm ups did nothing for it.
Another study compared the two workout preparations (and a group of non-warm up participants) by enlisting students at the United States Military Academy. The group who completed dynamic warm ups improved their performance while the static-stretchers did not.
Give yourself 15 minutes to stretch and warm up before a workout or any type of exercise program. This is especially so for people rolling out of bed and into the gym or for folks who have been sitting at a desk for eight hours.
- Allow 15 minutes for exercise prep.
- Do what feels good. If you have specific muscles that are tighter than others, show them some more TLC.
- Always stretch and warm up the lower back. You’ll use it no matter what you’re doing.
- When stretching, use tiny pulses and your breath-control to extend your reach instead of going for the full length right away.
- Mix up the two: stretch a little, move a little, stretch again, move again.
- Don’t rush.
If you have a workout partner, let them help you get into the stretches a bit more. Be gentle. Repeat this within the first 15 minutes following a workout. And, of course, hydrate. Share your favorite pre-workout stretches below!