Guidelines for Implementing a Dynamic Warm Up for Physical Education
As doubts about the value of static stretching grow, dynamic exercise offers a more beneficial warm up procedure.
by Faigenbaum, Avery, and James E. McFarland Jr. | First Published in The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. 78.3 (March 2007): 25(4)
Outline of the Study
The study reiterates the importance of warm up routines for all students involved in athletic activity, provided a regimen blending pre-event active and static stretching is employed. A brisk, diverse and exciting warm up series is advised to motivate students and prepare them for the athletic activity to follow. Recent studies questioning the efficacy of pre-event static stretching are cited; including adult studies implying that acute static stretching exercise can negatively impact strength and power performance.
The article also makes note of studies which undermine claims of static stretching for injury prevention. Acute static stretching studies of children seem to confirm a loss of anaerobic performance measured in jumping and sprint speed. Combining dynamic stretching protocols with traditional static stretching is advised as a remedy.
What the Study Was Trying to Prove
The study focuses on stretching procedures designed to emphasize kinesthetic awareness, maximize range of motion, increase core body temperature and enhance motor unit excitability, through dynamic movements. Such pre-exercise routines often include upper and lower body movement such as hops, skips, jumps and lunges performed at low, medium and high intensity. The study sought to emphasize the usefulness of dynamic stretching, in which the specific muscle undergoes controlled elongation, rather than a sudden, explosive movement as in ballistic stretching. Such dynamic stretching acts to prepare the body for the specific movement undertaken in specific athletic events. In addition to increasing body temperature, the warm up effort should attempt to activate the neuromuscular system and extend flexibility, while enhancing mobility, coordination, agility, strength and power.
Summary of Results
The study surveys existing literature on the effects of acute static stretching warm ups prior to athletic events, noting a decline in strength and power performance. Claims of reduction of injury following acute static stretching are also called into question by recent findings. The results seem to apply to children, with a reduction in performance in jumping, explosive force and speed development, following acute static stretching.
By contrast, dynamic regimes in which muscles are stretched through a new range of motion are seen to be beneficial. An emphasis on designing warm up protocols that replicate the kind of muscle activity used in the main athletic event for the day will help tailor the protocol for maximum benefit. Static stretching protocols are reserved for the cool-down phase, in order to relax muscles.
A dynamic warm up routine is recommended for its benefits in physical education classes. Gradual progress from simple to complex stretching exercises boosts students’ confidence while preparing them for the specific athletic activity to follow. Improvements to posture, kinesthetic awareness, and active ranges of motion are among the benefits of a dynamic stretching routine. Further research on the immediate and long-term effects of dynamic exercise will allow for the optimization of warm up procedures for students of physical education.
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