Warm up to stretching
How your child can prevent injury and improve performance
Although dynamic stretching is important for everyone, it may have an even greater importance for young, growing athletes. Bones typically grow at a faster rate than muscles so it’s important to improve the muscles flexibility to allow pain-free motion.
The role of warming up and its impact on performance is debated regularly. Sometimes the coaches of our kids’ sports teams do not find the time to have the athletes perform an appropriate warm up prior to practice. They may not see enough benefit to use precious practice time for warming up. However, participating in sporting activities, practice or competition, without an appropriate warm up can not only decrease performance, but also place the athletes at risk for injury.
Much of the recently published evidence shows that static stretching (i.e. holding positions for set amounts of time) can decrease the muscles ability to respond to the stresses it experiences during activity. Static stretching may be of more benefit post workout or when only focused on increasing muscular length for improved flexibility.
A dynamic warm up or dynamic stretching is a method of warming up in which the athlete moves throughout available range of motion with stretches in a controlled manner. It has many benefits that are not seen with static stretching such as increasing blood flow to the muscles, increasing internal temperature, and preparing muscles for the sport specific movements they will need for the activity. This sort of warm up increases blood flow to the muscles and stretches them through specific motions that will be used while participating in their sport. In addition, most dynamic stretches target large muscle groups or multiple muscle groups together.
To successfully complete a dynamic warm up, athletes should follow some important steps. An appropriate warm up usually takes approximately 15 minutes.
1. Perform light aerobic activity to increase cardiac output and blood flow.
2. Follow with dynamic stretches to stretch muscles that will be needed for participation.
3. Optionally follow up with agility drills as desired. Examples include: butt kicks, high knees, skips, etc.
When performing dynamic stretches, it is important to monitor form and control. If dynamic stretches are performed without appropriate control, muscles can be stretched too far too quickly and pose a threat to injury. If you have an injury or need further guidance, please see a medical professional, such as your primary care physician or pediatrician.
- Does your child play one sport?
- Cook Children's Sports Performance Orthopedic Rehab Team Specialists (SPORTS)
- Dynamic stretching
- The basics of sports injury prevention for kids
- Rise of overuse injuries in school-age athletes
- Top 10 questions parents have about sport injuries
- Young athlete’s injury prevention guide
About the author
Amanda Stukey, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist for the SPORTS program at Cook Children's. Our physicians, therapists, nurses and technologists work exclusively with kids and understand the unique needs of a growing athlete's bones, muscles, body and mind.