Working out is essential to a healthy lifestyle. A strong workout should push your body to the limit, helping you to stay in shape by burning calories and toning muscles. But the workout itself is only part of the equation when it comes to keeping your body healthy and in shape. You need to prepare your body for your workout by eating right, drinking plenty of water, and then yes—warming up!
Who remembers being in gym class back in high school? Everyone lined up and listened as the tired coach counted to ten and everyone moved into the same basic stretch formation before being told to change positions. These stretches were supposed to be enough to get your muscles moving and “warmed up” so that you could play basketball or run the track without hurting yourself. But these stretches probably fell short of what your body actually needed! Static stretching is great for working out a knot in a muscle or loosening up your muscles when you wake up in the morning, but they aren’t strong enough to help prepare your body fully for exercise.
When you start working with a physical therapist you’ll be introduced to dynamic stretches. These are stretches that get your body moving in targeted, repetitive ways that help your muscles to really loosen up and get prepared for a strong workout.
Dynamic stretching supports healthy muscles by using a gentle, joint-by-joint progression of movement. The goal of dynamic stretching is not to see how fast you can go, or how deep you can stretch, but instead to move your body in every direction, in all planes of motion, with emphasis on increasing your range of motion.
Great examples of dynamic stretches that you should be practicing include:
- Shoulder rolls: Simply stand up straight and move your arms in large circular motions overhead.
- Chest openers: With your elbows bent, start with your arms together and then bring your arms out to the side, pushing your elbows behind your shoulder blades.
- Lateral reaches: Standing straight, lean your body to the left and extend your right hand in the air, creating a crescent moon pose, then alternate sides.
- Sumo squats: Without holding any weights, simply squat your knees and hold your hands to your chest, and then repeat.
Proper technique is important with dynamic stretching, so if you have never tried this type of stretching before it is a good idea to get guidance. Your physical therapist can guide you through this type of workout prep, and you can also find video tutorials online to guide your home workout practice.
For more information about physical therapy or to schedule a consultation, contact NRG Atheletes Therapy Fitness.