Many youth athletes, active adults, and even experienced athletes are guilty of forgetting to warm up before they begin serious physical activity. Dynamic warm-up and movement preparation should be a part of any workout regimen or sports participation from the first steps you take on the field to the last light stretch or mobility after you’ve wrapped up for the day.
Reasons to Prepare for Physical Activity With a Dynamic Warm-Up
If you have hurried through your warm-up or brushed off completing a cool-down routine, you could be putting your body at increased risk for injury and depriving yourself of some great benefits. In addition to serving as a great addition to physical activity, dynamic mobility training has a whole host of other health benefits. Mobility work prepares your muscles and joints for activity and promotes a greater range of motion, flexibility, and motor control. You might think this kind of attention to mobility is just for gymnasts or ballet dancers, but you’d be wrong. We should all work to prepare our bodies for physical activity to stay mobile, versatile, and strong.
Here are a few reasons why you should always take the time for a full dynamic warm-up:
- Prepares the body for exercise. Most people don’t properly mobilize their muscles or joints. Some will stretch their cold muscles too aggressively or they skip it altogether. Exercise is great for the body, but it can also lead to injury, fatigue, and pain if not done properly. A good dynamic warm-up will prepare your body for use and help you perform better during exercise
- Increases circulation. Increases blood flow to your muscles and throughout your body. This means that more oxygenated blood and nutrients carried in the blood are getting to your muscles and helping you repair and build your muscles at a faster rate–naturally. This increase in nutrient-rich blood to muscles also means you have more energy to get you through a tough rehabilitation workout or intense physical activities.
- Improves range of motion and flexibility. Mobility work, whether with a device like a foam roller or with just your body weight, helps your joints move through wider ranges of motion while allowing for the exploration of joints or body regions that might not get as much attention during your regular workouts or your sport. Mobility training and dynamic stretching techniques can also help improve your performance in physical activities that require more flexibility–in everything from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to climbing, gymnastics, tennis, running, and more.
- Prevents tight muscles or cramping. There is nothing worse than a bad muscle cramp that comes from out of nowhere. Lots of people carry tension in their muscles due to strength or mobility imbalances. When a muscle or movement becomes overwhelmed by a workload those muscles can get tight and even cramp. The more you practice healthy mobility, the less tight or tense your muscles will be and the less likely they are to cramp when engaging in physical activity. Don’t let a muscle cramp stop you at your favorite part of your workout or during an important competition.
- Reduces stress. Flexible and strong tissues hold less tension and can help you relax. Taking time to warm up and stretch can help calm your mind and your body to reduce tension and stress. Whether you’ve had an overwhelming day at work or school or a tough day at the gym or performing, remaining mobile and practicing this daily can provide a much-needed form of stress relief. This also helps you get into a more physical mindset so you can frame your thoughts around helping your body move and perform at a higher level.
- Improves posture. Maintain proper dynamic and static alignments by ensuring your back, shoulders, chest, and side muscles are moving properly. Regular mobility work may also keep you in tune with any new pains or restrictions. Mobility work for posture will allow you to re-orient yourself and your body to how things should naturally feel, and if an area of your body is restricted in some way, you will be more likely to notice it and then make adjustments to improve that restriction.
- Reduces pain. Whether you have pain from day-to-day activities, a long history of playing sports, or from injuries sustained doing something else, mobility work and movement prep can help reduce pain and bring relief. If you already have an injury or are unfamiliar with how to mobilize your muscles or joints, consult an expert to help you– such as a physical therapist. Incorrect stretching or an inadequate dynamic warm-up can hurt your muscles and add to issues that were easier to treat or train for improvement. As a general rule, don’t overdo it; if you feel pain or a movement restriction, ease up a level or two and slowly work back to the movement.
Dynamic warm-ups and mobility training provide a myriad of health benefits, whether you choose to get loose before or after a workout or just complete light stretching for short periods of time throughout the day. This kind of physical activity helps to nourish every important movement structure in your body, improve important ranges of motion, and increase body flexibility. Done correctly, it will even improve your workouts and physical performance.
Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
There are two common types of stretching: dynamic and static
- Static. This type of stretching involves holding a pose or stretching in a comfortable position for a short period of time, usually somewhere between 30 to 90 seconds and is most commonly done after completing physical activity or exercise.
- Dynamic. This type of stretching involves active movements which cause your body and muscles to stretch. Generally, you do not hold a position very long and move on to the next stretch or pose to prepare for the sport or activity. These stretches are best done prior to exercise to help your muscles prepare for activity and to warm up.
A combination of light to moderate activity is always a good idea before more aggressive stretching or mobility work. Likewise, stretching and mobility work performed soon after a workout is a terrific idea. This is a great cool-down activity and keeps you mobile and pain-free regardless of what activity you have been doing or what muscles you have been working out. Even if you only have 10-15 minutes a day to practice your mobility, give it a try! You might be surprised at the benefits you see from incorporating the practice into your routine.
If you’re looking to get back into a fitness routine, improve your sports performance, or recover from an injury that is holding you back, make an appointment with SPARK Physiotherapy today!