If even a jet engine needs to warm up properly and sufficiently before the pilot can turn up to full thrust, why shouldn’t you?
Ever feel like getting out of your stifling room, boring lecture or office cubicle and just running? Or hiking. skiing, playing ball, cycling, boxing, swimming, lifting, kicking or screaming? I used to feel that way a lot (i’m restless and get bored easily). So i’d just go out there and do it. No prep, no warm up; just put the afterburners on and go full blast. And it worked – for a while. But not for more than that. And certainly not in the long run.
You see, your body needs time to prepare itself for any strenuous activity. Not given sufficient time and conditioning, your body will huff and puff and start giving way well before the finish line is in sight.
The most important goal when preparing to exercise should be to increase the body temperature and to prepare the muscles, connective tissue, the heart and lungs to safely accommodate more intense exercise. Warming up pumps nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to your muscles as it speeds up your heart rate and breathing. A good warm-up should last five to 10 minutes and work all major muscle groups. For this reason, all exercise routines should begin with dynamic warm-up exercises and then proceed onto the planned activity. In the past, most exercise routines began with a static stretch routine. Although static stretching before activity might increase performance in sports that require an increased range of motion, such as gymnastics, static stretching can compromise muscle performance. In these cases it is important that the strength and conditioning professional perform a benefit-risk analysis when choosing whether or not to include static stretching in a warm-up.
Although some studies demonstrated that static stretching had no effect on subsequent performance, static stretching has also been shown to lead to a decrease in force production, power performance, running speed, reaction and movement time, and strength endurance. Additionally, both proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching and ballistic stretching have been shown to be detrimental to subsequent performance.
Dynamic stretching does not seem to elicit the performance reduction effects of static and PNF stretching and has been shown to improve subsequent running performance.
Current exercise guidelines recommend that the best time to stretch is after cardiovascular exercise or a muscular workout when the body temperature is elevated. (I want you to think of a piece of gum. Can you stretch it when it is immediately taken out of the wrapper? No. It will break. But when you start to chew the gum and the heat of your mouth makes it more pliable. Your muscles act in the same way and need warmth to maintain an elongated length.)
The type of activity planned will determine which level to use for a proper warm-up. For example, lower intensity workouts may require a Level 1 warm-up while higher intensity (i.e. Cardiovascular
Conditioning) may require a Level 3 warm-up.
Remember that no stretching should be included during this segment. The circulatory warm-up should continue until a light perspiration is present. At this point you should not feel tired or out of breath. Your heart rate and respiration rate are slightly elevated, your muscles are warmer and you are ready to proceed to the next portion of your workout. Your dynamic warm-up should last for 5-10 minutes in duration. Use Level 3 for those sessions that are more intense (speed training) or during colder weather.
Do 10 reps of each of the exercises in level 1, 2 or 3 (as per intensity of subsequent workout)
Alternately, you can do these exercises, according to the kind and intensity of your subsequent workout.
The cool-down will be performed after the planned physical activity and its purpose is to gradually lower the heart rate and respiratory rate to pre-activity levels. After your workout, it’s best to spend five to 10 minutes cooling down through a sequence of slow movements. This helps prevent muscle cramps and dizziness while gradually slowing your breathing and heart rate. Strenuous exercise causes the blood vessels in your legs to expand, bringing more blood into the legs and feet. When you stop exercising suddenly without taking time to cool down, your heart rate slows abruptly and that blood can pool in your lower body, causing dizziness and even fainting. The risk is greater for serious athletes, whose heart rates slow down faster and whose veins can hold more blood. An effective cool-down also incorporates stretching exercises to relax and lengthen muscles throughout your body and improve your range of motion. Allow 3-5 minutes to cool down, hydrate, and recover fully before going to the floor for final static stretching.
Benefits of a Proper Stretching Program:
- Improved posture and body symmetry
- Increased range of motion for each joint
- Minimize low back pain and other joint pain
- Minimize soreness
- Promote relaxation and reduce anxiety
Types of Stretching:
1) Ballistic Stretching consists of quick, repetitive, bouncing type movements. The momentum can result in damage to muscle and connective tissue and is not an effective method to increase flexibility. (Demonstrate the bouncing toe touch so they understand what ballistic means. Then tell them: what does this look like? It resembles the “cherry picker” contraindicated exercise and that is why we don’t endorse that exercise.)
2) Static Stretching involves gradually going into a position of stretch until tension is felt. Since static stretching is more controlled, there is less chance of exceeding the limits of the tissue thereby creating injury. (Demonstrate a static stretch here-one of the 12 listed below.)
3) Contract and Relax (or PNF) involves contraction of muscles or muscle groups for 5 to 10 seconds followed by relaxing and stretching. Traditionally, this procedure has been utilized by therapists for rehabilitation purposes. If carefully instructed and supervised, contract/relax methods can be effective in flexibility programs. Some of the positions require a partner, however, which increases the risk of overstretching and consequent injury. (Demonstrate contract relax on the hamstring using a student. Have them push for 5 seconds against your hand/shoulder, then relax. As they relax, you could stretch them further. Tell the students they could use a partner or the wall (where they are lying down and one leg is against the wall and the other is thru the door way) to improve their flexibility of hamstrings.)
General Rules for Stretching Safety: Stretching to increase flexibility is an important part of an overall fitness program and should not be excluded from your weekly regimen. Using static stretching the position should be held for 30 seconds to get maximal flexibility results. If your time is limited, try to perform stretches that involve several muscle groups at once (like those listed below), but make sure you do not compromise technique.
Things to Avoid While Stretching:
1) Avoid Extreme Hyperextension of the Spine (arching the back), e.g.
2) Avoid Locking any Joint and Always Keep a Slight Bend in the Knee when Performing Standing Stretches.
3) Never Force a Movement
4) Avoid Forward Flexion of the Spine, e.g.
5) Avoid spinal rotations, they are bad for the back, e.g.
6) Do not perform circular motions, e.g.
Contraindicated Stretches: It is best to completely avoid contraindicated positions or stretches. Although it is not guaranteed that an injury will result, the chances are much increased. There are safe and effective alternatives to contraindicated stretches. Even if you do not feel pain while performing a contraindicated stretch, damage may be occurring which will show up later.
In order to perform an effective exercise routine, time management, and exercise selection will play a major role in your success. Several of these exercises involve stretching multiple muscle groups at one time so you can complete a total body flexibility program within 5 to 10 minutes. Also, the exercises selected should be performed in the sequence provided so you gradually transition from a standing position to a ground position. All stretches should be held for a minimum of 15 seconds.
Stretch 1: Chest Stretch
Description: In a standing position, gently clasp both of your hands and place them on the back of your neck. Slowly pull your elbows back until you feel a stretch on your chest. Do not pull your head forward or place tension on the neck Caution: You can do this as a partner assisted stretch but they should
not force the stretch by aggressively pulling back on the elbows.
Stretch 2: Posterior Shoulder Stretch
Description: Place your left hand on the back side of your right arm above your elbow on the front of your body and gently pull your arm across your body. You should feel a stretch on back side of your shoulder and upper arm. Repeat to stretch opposite side of your body.
Stretch 3: Triceps Stretch (Upper Back Side of Arm)
Description: Take your left arm and reach behind your back. By placing your right hand on the back side of your left arm, gently push back to achieve a stretch on the left triceps muscle. Repeat on opposite side.
Stretch 4: 90/90 Stretch
Description: Place a rolled towel between your knees. Keep arms straight at a 90 degree angle to your torso. Keep your hips still while rotating chest and arm to the deck. Exhale and hold for 2 seconds, return to starting position and repeat. Remember to keep your knees together and pressed against the deck. You should only rotate as far as you can without lifting your knees of the deck.
Stretch 5: Abdominal Stretch
Description: On your stomach, place your hands beneath your shoulder and gently push up until you feel a stretch on your abdominal muscles. Do not fully lock out your elbows and hyperextend your back.
Note: If you feel any discomfort in your low back while performing this exercise, you can reduce the tension by using the “propped on elbow” position.
Stretch 6: Low Back Stretch
Description: While lying on your back, gently pull one or both knees to your chest. You should feel a stretch in your low back and buttocks.
Stretch 7: Piriformis Stretch
Description: While you are lying on your back, gently cross your right leg over your left thigh (both knees are bent at 90 degrees). Take both hands and place on the back side of your left thigh. Gently pull towards your chest until your feel slight tension in your right buttock and outer thigh. Repeat on opposite side.
Note: If you are experiencing low back pain after performing physical activity, seek medical assistance. This exercise should be performed to increase flexibility in this region and may assist in decreasing pain.
Stretch 8: Hip Flexor Stretch
Description: In a standing position, place your right foot approximately 3 to 4 feet in front of your left foot (like a lunge). Slowly bend both knees until you lower your body towards the ground. Your left knee should almost be at 90 degrees. Gently push your left hip forward to feel the stretch in the front of your hip. If you don’t feel the stretch, gently lean your upper body back.
Tip: Since you use this muscle group during the Navy Curl-Up, this stretch should be performed after the curl-up event to prevent cramping and prepare this muscle group for the cardio event.
Stretch 9: Quadriceps Stretch (Upper leg)
Standing Description: In a standing position, with a slight bend in your left knee, grab your right ankle with your right hand and maintain your balance. Gently pull your right foot towards your buttocks while making sure your knees is aligned with the body (make sure knee is not sticking out and it is directly below your hip). You can also stretch out your trapezius (neck) muscles during this quadriceps stretch (neck muscles) by bringing your chin to the opposite side of your chest. Repeat to opposite side. Additional Notes: If you are having difficulty balancing you can hold on to a wall or perform this stretch while lying on your side.
On-the-Ground Description: While lying on your side, with a slight bend in your left knee, grabs your right ankle with your right hand and maintains your balance. Gently pull your right foot towards your buttocks while making sure your knees is aligned with the body (make sure knee is not sticking out and it is directly below your hip. Repeat to opposite side.
**You can also stretch out your trapezius (neck) muscles during this quadriceps stretch
(neck muscles) by bringing your chin to the opposite side of your chest.
Stretch 10: Modified Hurdler Stretch
Description: While sitting in a v-position, gently pull your left foot towards your groin area. Your right leg will remain straight with a slight bend in the knee. Gently lean forward and reach for your toes on your right leg to stretch out your hamstring.
Note: The stretch will be more difficult if you try to perform the hamstring stretch if you pull your toes back towards your body (vs. pointed).
Stretch 11: Groin or Butterfly Stretch
Description: While sitting with the upper body nearly vertical and legs straight, bend both knees, and bring the soles of the feet together. Pull feet toward your body. Gently place your hands on your feet and your elbows on your knees. Pull your upper body slightly forward as your elbows push down. You should feel a stretch in your groin area.
Stretch 12: Calf and Achilles Stretch
Description: In a push-up position, cross the left foot over the right. With the right knee straight, gently push the right heel toward the deck. You will feel a stretch in the right calf. Hold for 15 seconds. Slowly put a slight bend in your right knee until you feel the stretch move towards your ankle (Achilles tendon). Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat to opposite side.