New research indicates that flexibility is a by-product of pre-run static stretching and may be a biomechanical factor that hurts running economy which is a measure of your overall efficiency. Do something to worsen your running economy before a race or workout, and you’re going to be susceptible to injury. That’s why growing numbers of elites have eliminated static stretching before their most important runs or workouts and replaced it with a series of dynamic stretching exercises.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2009 explains the logic behind the switch. Researchers at Nebraska Wesleyan University enlisted male and female collegiate distance runners to complete sit-and-reach tests to measure flexibility, and then put them on a treadmill to determine running economy. The result: An increase in hamstring flexibility generally correlates with a decrease in running economy.
Static stretching isn’t all bad, but from a performance perspective, static stretches cause an inhibition or a breakdown of the excitability of the muscle tissue.” The immediate effects from static stretching actually include decreased muscle function and decreased muscle function prior to a run, race or workout can not be a good thing.
To get a good static stretch you are asking the body on a subconscious level to relax. “From a muscle-recruitment standpoint, you don’t want to turn the muscles off in a relaxed state prior to asking them to perform. The elastic energy of a tighter muscle is going to have more recoil and power than a heavily stretched muscle.
The caveat is that simply eliminating static stretching won’t necessarily increase performance and decrease injury. This is where dynamic stretching comes in. Rather than standing in one place and forcing your muscles to stretch, this type of stretching trains the muscles to warm up and fire the way you want them to through a series of dynamic movements.
Basically, by engaging in these activities, we can neurologically activate specific muscle groups prior to running, which helps us minimize injuries and perform better in the subsequent workout.” As seen with study’s that looked at pre and post stretching for runners, dynamic stretching can assist in bettering performance, while simultaneously reducing injuries.
Dynamic stretching is also a way to stimulate the neurological system, which in turn activates the muscles. This makes them more resilient to external stimulus, which leads to a quicker neurological response, “so the muscle is standing ready when called upon to run faster, jump higher, and do what the athlete wants it to do.”
A DYNAMIC APPROACH
“The dynamic warm-up piece is truly like turning a light switch on before walking into a dark room,” stretches that include quick-paced movements like bounding, jumping, and single-leg swings help to fire up the muscles that you want to perform. To implement a dynamic warm-up routine, we suggests choosing a set of exercises you will remain committed to and practice before every run and race or workout. The routine described at the right can be done in 10 minutes.
While static stretching remains a good post-run ritual, the research and applied evidence touts the many advantages of engaging in a dynamic routine in its place. “Dynamic stretching recruits more of the body than static stretching. We certainly don’t throw away static stretching, but it has its place. For pre-race and pre-training, dynamic flexibility and movement has a much better return on the investment.” We recommend performing the exercises before every regular run. Prior to hard workouts and races it tends to work best to do a warm-up jog and then perform the dynamic stretches, followed by strides. This helps to adequately warm up the muscles and then get the right ones firing in the right ways.
SEVEN DYNAMIC STRETCHES
1) REVERSE LUNGE WITH TWIST
Take an exaggerated step backwards with the right leg. Go into the lunge position, twist your torso to the left, and reach for your right heel with your left hand. Come back to lunge posit ion, stand up, and step back with the left leg to repeat on the other side.
2) KNEE CRADLE
Standing, lift your left leg with the knee facing outwards. Use your hands to cradle the leg at the knee and ankle; avoid pulling on the foot. Simultaneously rise to your toes on your right foot before releasing your left leg, stepping forward, and repeating on the other side. Continue for 10 steps.
3) STRAIGHT LEG MARCH
Begin walking and start swinging one of your legs straight out in front of you with each step. Attempt to touch your foot with the opposite hand upon each swing, and alternate legs continue for 10 steps
4) BUTT KICKS
As you run, bend your knee and bring your heel back to your butt with each step. Steps should be short and rapid as you focus on the frequency of the butt kicks, rather than the pace at which you move forward. Drive your arms forward with each step. Continue for 10 steps
5) HIGH KNEES
Running on the balls of your feet, bring you r knees up as high as possible with each step. As with butt kicks, pay attention to frequency rather than pace. Steps should be small and quick. Drive your opposite arm forward as each knee comes up. Continue for 10 steps.
With your shoulder s square and facing one direction, get into a semi-squatting position. Cross your left leg in front of your right leg, bring your right leg through, and then cross your left leg behind your right leg. Go 50 meters one way, continue facing the same direction, and go back.
standing with your left leg slightly bent, place your right leg and foot over your left knee and squat down until you feel a stretch in the right hip, stand and alternate.
Source: Runner’s World