Following on form the last post on stretching http://www.west4thphysio.com/seniors-health/thoughts-on-static-stretching/ this post will concentrate on alternatives to the static stretch. For a long time, flexibility has been considered a fundamental part of health and fitness and it has been the aim of all sorts of exercise programs to have as their primary goal an increase in flexibility. Unfortunately, after years of research, there has been no correlation shown between static stretching and a reduction in the frequency of athletic injury.
So what to do? There has been a slow recognition of another type of athletic preparation. It has become known as dynamic stretching and can be done together with (and as an added part of) a warm up. Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch . Unlike static stretching the end position is not held. Movements are done with emphasis on precision, smoothness and using the complete range of motion. For example, dynamic stretching for running sports could start with 5 minutes of gentle jogging and then include the following:
- Walking lunge – a long, slow and exaggerated step, allowing the front thigh to become parallel to the ground and the rear knee to almost touch the ground. Ten on each side.
- High knee steps – run slowly forwards and exaggerate the knee lift. Keep the core muscles active so that the lifting leg cannot cause your low back to follow into flexion. Ten on each side.
- High heel kicks – again run slowly forwards with short steps (to keep the motion in the lower legs) while you kick your heel up behind you to touch your butt (or as close as you can get).
You can find other suitable exercises for running sports in the Resources/library in the Technical Running Drills section by following this link. http://www.west4thphysio.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Technical-Running-Drills3.pdf
This type of exercise adds to the warm up and gets your muscles firing and ready to go. Best of all, research is showing that this approach does not seem to produce the diminished running performance that comes with performing a routine of pre-run static stretches. There seems to be no dampening of strength or power. So the current message is warm up and perform dynamic drills before your activity. If you need to do static stretching to help with areas that have previously been troublesome, you are better to do it after your activity.