You’ll find no lack of advice on how to train. But how should you warmup? While warming up is decidedly less sexy than lifting and setting PRs, it’s one of the most important ways to prevent injury and maximize performance.
Over the past few years, researchers have been steadily revealing that static stretching isn’t nearly as effective as a dynamic warmup. This means that instead of bending over to touch our toes at the beginning of P.E. class, we really should have been hopping, twisting, skipping, and generally making fools of ourselves. Another study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has jumped on this bandwagon and compared static and dynamic warmups.
All participants started by lightly pedaling a stationary bike for 5 minutes. The study then compared a static stretching protocol of 4 stretches to a dynamic warmup protocol of 20 short-duration movements. Both routines lasted about 15 minutes.1
Which group fared better post-warmup? The dynamic warmup group showed significantly improved hamstring flexibility and quadriceps strength over the static warmup group.
While this supports past research on the topic, two findings are particularly surprising. First, no significant differences were found in vertical jump. Because the dynamic warmup group showed an increase in hamstring flexibility and quadriceps strength, I anticipated that a greater vertical jump would follow. It did not. Second, the study revealed that static stretching for 40 seconds per muscle group was not enough to significantly improve flexibility. If you want to gain flexibility, then research shows you’ll need 90 seconds or more per muscle group. However, don’t perform long stretches before your workout, because they have definitely been shown to degrade performance.
I do have a small bone to pick with this study. Comparing 20 dynamic movements to 4 static stretches is a little unfair. The study’s intent was to keep both warmups at about 15 minutes long, and static stretches within accepted guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine. That combination yielded very few stretches for the static stretching warmup. We are left to wonder if a more varied group of short-duration static stretches might have fared better. Still, the sum of scientific evidence seems to declare victory for dynamic warmups. Which type of warmup do you prefer?
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