If you’re like us, you’ve been somewhat flummoxed by the rules of pre-exercise regimen - ” Do I need to stretch before warming up so I don’t hurt myself? Should I do some kind of warm up before stretching? What is a warm-up anyway?” Kinda chicken or the egg, right? Well, like us, you might be relieved to finally have some sort of decisive conclusions on the matter.
Thanks to a recent article in The NY Times we discovered that pretty much everything we learned from elementary school gym class on up is completely wrong! OUT: Static stretching (like bending over touching your toes and holding for counts) IN: Dynamic stretching (fluid movement) AND: always warming up before all of that.
While static stretching is still almost universally practiced among amateur athletes — watch your child’s soccer team next weekend — it doesn’t improve the muscles’ ability to perform with more power, physiologists now agree. “You may feel as if you’re able to stretch farther after holding a stretch for 30 seconds,” McHugh says, “so you think you’ve increased that muscle’s readiness.” But typically you’ve increased only your mental tolerance for the discomfort of the stretch. The muscle is actually weaker.
Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion. Muscles in motion don’t experience that insidious inhibitory response. They instead get what McHugh calls “an excitatory message” to perform.
But, us yogis, we knew that right? Hmm, that dynamic stretching, that’s sort of like, oh we don’t know, vinyasa? Why yes, yes it is!
Also, about that warm-up:
Most experts advise starting your warm-up jog at about 40 percent of your maximum heart rate (a very easy pace) and progressing to about 60 percent. The aerobic warm-up should take only 5 to 10 minutes, with a 5-minute recovery.
Anyone still confused? Here’s the basic breakdown:
1. Warm up for 5-10 minutes with some low-impact aerobic activity
2. Stretch your muscles and tendons with *dynamic* stretching
3. Play ball! or garden, golf, lift heavy objects etc…
After the jump some dynamic stretches, curiously similar to yoga…
These exercises- as taught by the United States Tennis Association’s player-development program – are good for many athletes, even golfers. Do them immediately after your aerobic warm-up and as soon as possible before your workout.
(for the hamstrings and gluteus muscles)
Kick one leg straight out in front of you, with your toes flexed toward the sky. Reach your opposite arm to the upturned toes. Drop the leg and repeat with the opposite limbs. Continue the sequence for at least six or seven repetitions.
(for the lower back, hip flexors and gluteus muscles)
Lie on your stomach, with your arms outstretched and your feet flexed so that only your toes are touching the ground. Kick your right foot toward your left arm, then kick your leftfoot toward your right arm. Since this is an advanced exercise, begin slowly, and repeat up to 12 times.
(for the shoulders, core muscles, and hamstrings)
Stand straight, with your legs together. Bend over until both hands are flat on the ground. “Walk” with your hands forward until your back is almost extended. Keeping your legs straight, inch your feet toward your hands, then walk your hands forward again. Repeat five or six times.
Handwalks…a lot like Plank, no?