I have been harping on this a bit lately, but I wanted to talk about cold weather injury prevention again because it is on my mind (due to the fact that it’s really cold outside). Ever since my hip was thrown off line and I thought that I might be down for a couple of weeks I have been exploring preventative tips more thoroughly.
To warm up before hitting the range, I’ve been doing dynamic stretches per the advice of my Physical Therapist Shawn Dailey. He has always touted the advantages of non-static stretching prior to physical exercise and I pretty much just took his word on it and did as he said.
But, I’m not the kind of person who can blindly follow advice without questioning why I am doing something a certain way. So I spent some time researching the pros and cons of both static and dynamic stretching.
What I found was that while there is an appropriate time for both static and dynamic stretching, doing the wrong one prior to exercise can potentially be detrimental to your health and progress.
First off, the difference between the two forms. Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching while moving that utilizes the momentum from movements to propel the muscles into an extended range of motion. It is constantly flowing movements aimed to warm up the core and bring blood flow to the different muscles. Whereas static stretching is holding specific poses for a length of time in order to elongate the muscles.
When I was growing up, we did static stretches before everything. It was part of warming up and getting loose for any type of exercise. Now, though, the research is showing that doing static stretches before exercise actually weakens the muscles. According to a recent NYTimes article, “‘There is a neuromuscular inhibitory response to static stretching,’ says Malachy McHugh, the director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. The straining muscle becomes less responsive and stays weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching, which is not how an athlete wants to begin a workout.”
Static stretching before action, especially before sports that require explosive movements such as golf, tennis, baseball, etc, can actually reduce the strength in those necessary muscles by nearly 10 percent. Even static stretching during the activity can reduce muscle strength. Whenever you cool down or need to loosen up again it’s best to remain as dynamic as possible.
Another downfall of static stretching before exercising is that your body may think it’s at risk of being overstretched. It compensates by contracting and becoming more tense. That means you are not able to move as fast or as freely, making you more likely to get hurt as well as less likely to bomb a long drive.
The deeper I dug the more it stood out that static stretching during or before exercise is not the way to go. In the next article, they didn’t talk so much about how static stretching was harmful, but that it produced no positives if done prior to exercise. It was an Associated Press article and said Stephen B. Thacker, director of the epidemiology program office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “We could not find a benefit. Athletes who stretch might feel more limber, but they shouldn’t count on stretching to keep them healthy,” he said. “People who stretched in this manner were no more or less likely to suffer pulled muscles or prevent injuries. Warmups which increase blood flow have been found to reduce the risk of injuries, though.”
And, one article had a great paragraph specifically for golfers. “Even golfers, notoriously nonchalant about warming up (a recent survey of 304 recreational golfers found that two-thirds seldom or never bother), would benefit from exerting themselves a bit before teeing off. In one 2004 study, golfers who did dynamic warm- up exercises and practice swings increased their clubhead speed and were projected to have dropped their handicaps by seven strokes over seven weeks.”
Very interesting stuff! I honestly had no clue that dynamic stretching helped so much and that old fashioned stretching before working out could actually do more harm than good. But, there is still a time where static stretching is beneficial. It’s in the evening when all the day’s activities are said and done in order to lengthen the muscles prior to resting for the night.
All of this has been known for ages, too. There is one form of Yoga that was introduced by the father of modern yoga, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, at some point in early 1900 which is based on a much older morning and evening routine, but the premise is that you move dynamically in the morning to warm up and more statically in the evening to cool down. The morning routine is called Surya Namaskara, or Sun Salutations, and for the evening he taught Chandra Namaskar, or Moon Satulations.
Check those both out if you are interested in a regular stretching routine.
Or, here are some examples of good dynamic stretches to get you going:
Lightly bounce off both toes while keeping the knees very slightly bent. This is very similar to a skipping motion, except that it is performed while moving forward. The idea is to introduce progressively more range of motion as you move through the prescribed distance.
This is basic running form while bringing the knees up higher than normal – ideally beyond your waistline. Aim to keep your feet moving as fast as possible and your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forwards.
Similar to high knees except you keep your thighs pointing to the ground while kicking your heels up towards your backside. Again, move fast and keep ankles, knees, hips and shoulders in alignment.
Moving laterally to your left, cross your right foot in front of your left, then step with your left, then cross your right foot behind the left and repeat. Aim for as much hip rotation as possible and keep those feet moving fast.
In the process of your walk, put your left hand on your left knee and right hand on your left ankle, then pull both in towards your chest. Take a step and repeat on the other leg.
Frankenstein march or the Toy Soldier
Keeping your left leg straight, kick it up in front of you as high as you can, trying to touch the fingertips of the opposite arm – basically a straight leg march – then repeat with the right leg. This is an excellent way to stretch hamstrings.
Lie face down on the ground with arms extended out to the sides, palms facing down, so your body forms a ‘T’ shape. Maintaining this facedown position and keeping your shoulders flat on the ground, bring your left heel and swing it back towards your right hand in a reverse twisting motion. Repeat on the other leg.
While walking forward, hug your left knee into your chest, then step and repeat on the right leg, continuing with alternate legs. This is an excellent way to loosen up the glutes and hips.
While walking forwards, pull your left heel in to your butt, then step and repeat with the right leg, continuing with alternate legs. This is ideal for loosening up the quadriceps and hip flexors.
Step forward with your left leg into a lunge position (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forward, torso upright) trying to place your left elbow on the ground as close to your left heel as possible.
Over the fence
Facing in the opposite direction to the way you want to travel, raise your left knee as high as possible and rotate it behind you as if you were trying to walk backwards and step over an imaginary fence. Repeat on the right leg and continue with alternate legs.