We know that stretching is good for maintaining flexibility and that warming up before a workout is important, however knowing what stretches to do during a warm up can increase over all performance, workout efficiency and lower risk of muscle injury. Many people warm up with stretching, but they may not be doing the type of stretching that is most efficient for their workout.

The basic choices for stretches are dynamic stretches and static stretches. Most of us are familiar with static stretches or stretches that are held of 20 to 60 seconds, for example, a standing calf stretch or quad stretch. Dynamic stretches can involve either a single joint or multiple joints. A single joint dynamic stretch involves movement around one joint, like a side-to-side head movement. Multipoint dynamic stretches combine various joint actions, for example, a squat with a front raise.

Research has shown that warming up before exercising prevents injury, however static stretching is not considered a warm-up exercise and does not get the muscle ready for a more intense work out. Shirley Archer, JD, MA, a Stanford University health educator who has created mind-body stretching programs says, “These types of stretches (which do not involve large movement) can inhibit the flow and rhythm of the warm-up.”

During a warm up, your goal is to gradually increase heart rate and core temperature to prepare the body for the intense workout. Interruption, even for a few minutes for a single joint or static stretch will cause the heart rate and core temperatures to drop, thus defeating the purpose of the warm up. Another point to consider is that the muscle may not be warm enough to gain or increase in flexibility.

So, what does work in a warm up? Large body movements that involve multiple joint and dynamic ranges of motion are considered best when warming up. It is also important to include movements that are similar to the ones you will be doing in the work out. For example, during a kickboxing warm up you might begin with low kicks them increase the height of those kicks as you progress in the warm up. Another bonus to doing multipoint dynamic stretches before a workout is during these stretches the muscle continuously contracts, which helps increase their warmth as well.

Some other benefits of a gradual warm up are:
- Leads to efficient calorie burning by increasing your core body temperature
- Produces faster, more forceful muscle contractions
- Increases your metabolic rate so oxygen is delivered to the working muscles more quickly
- Prevents injuries by improving the elasticity of your muscles
- Gives you better muscle control by speeding up your neural message pathways to the muscles
- Allows you to work out comfortably longer because all your energy systems are able to adjust to exercise, preventing the buildup of lactic acid in the blood
- Improves joint range of motion
- Psychologically prepares you for higher intensities by increasing your arousal and focus on exercise

In order to fully reap the benefits of the time you are spending exercising, you must warm up and stretching can be an asset to a warm up routine. Choosing the proper stretches and warm up exercises will ensure a better performance from your body and, in turn, will make your workout more efficient, productive and, best of all, enjoyable.


This article is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical advice if you have any concern about your health or physical condition, and you should always consult your physician before following the recommendations presented here.  


Jevené Anti-Wrinkle Cream Free Sample Ideal Job banner

For more "Health & Wellness" click here to view back issues.


© Melt Magazine 2005