Health & Fitness

Dynamic stretching can improve athletic performance

David Huie, 27, a doctor of physical therapy, demonstrates the dynamic stretch for the back and hips, swinging the leg from left to right in a smooth motion, inside the Krupa Center at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston.
David Huie, 27, a doctor of physical therapy, demonstrates the dynamic stretch for the back and hips, swinging the leg from left to right in a smooth motion, inside the Krupa Center at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

One of the hottest trends in fitness these days is dynamic stretching.

Except, of course, dynamic stretching — which incorporates movement, such as lunges, while stretching the muscles — is nothing new.

“It’s been building up for the past maybe eight to 10 years, but it’s in vogue now,” said Mike Narbecki, a physical therapist with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

Narbecki traces dynamic stretching to the late American fitness expert Jack LaLanne, who epitomized exercising to the public through his popular TV show.

“I think back to some of the movements he would make, and they really were dynamic stretching,’’ Narbecki said.

“People have been doing it without realizing it,” said David Huie, physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist for Cleveland Clinic Florida. “It’s very good at preventing injury.”

Some therapists and trainers say dynamic stretching is more beneficial than the familiar static stretching routine athletes and weekend warriors do before a workout. In a static stretch, you hold a stretch for about 30 seconds while motionless.

The reason: dynamic stretching stimulates blood flow to the exact muscles that will be used in an activity, which can help increase flexibility for people playing fast-paced sports like soccer, basketball, sprinting, gymnastics and running. Also, tennis, given its side-to-side movements, and even swimming, which requires rapid arm turnover, can be performed with more ease and force after dynamic stretching.

Anyone that does any type of sporting activity, it’s recommended that the best dynamic stretches are those that are closest to the activity you are about to perform.

David Huie, physical therapist, strength and conditioning specialist, Cleveland Clinic Florida.

Dynamic stretching, which can be incorporated into a 10- to 15-minute warmup, activates the muscles used during the activity. For example, lunges with twists to work the hips, legs and core will be activated once on the soccer field.

“Anyone that does any type of sporting activity, it’s recommended that the best dynamic stretches are those that are closest to the activity you are about to perform. That is what is going to warm you up and help you have a better performance and activate the muscles,” Huie said.

But this doesn’t mean static stretching has no place in an exercise routine or therapeutic session.

“You don’t necessarily replace one with the other,” Narbecki said. “The static, or passive, stretch is more appropriate for when you are still in a rehab phase due to a muscle injury or a muscle associated with a joint injury. The dynamic stretching would be for someone who is already able or has gotten over their rehab and are able to start to be challenged more.”

Narbecki’s patient, 16-year-old Jonathan Mairena, a South Miami-Dade karate enthusiast who was sidelined with a tear to his meniscus has started to incorporate dynamic stretching into his rehabilitation program.

“After I got out of surgery, I started out slowly and recently began doing dynamic stretching,” he said. “It’s helpful, makes you feel more lubricated and at ease for the rest of the therapy session.”

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

A dynamic stretching warmup

Lunge with twist. Step forward and drop your hips, careful not to let your front knee extend beyond your foot. Once in lunge position, slowly twist your body to the side you are lunging. This dynamic stretch works the legs, glutes and hip flexors.

Running stride. As you stride forward, mimicking the run you are about to undertake, draw your other knee to your chest, hugging your shin briefly before your foot hits the ground. Repeat both sides. This exercise can also be performed as a static stretch by standing in place.

T-pushups. Perform a standard pushup from plank position. As you push back up from the ground, extend one arm toward the ceiling while keeping the other arm and hips stable. Return the arm to the starting pushup position and repeat on the other side. This dynamic stretch warms the muscles of your upper body, like the shoulders, while giving the all-important core a good workout.

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