I wince whenever I see some misguided trainee stretch themselves into pretzel like contortions before undertaking their workout proper. This is the absolute wrong way to prepare the body for any intense training activity as traditional static stretching (assume the position, stretch and hold) can both temporarily weaken the muscle being stretched as well as having a calming effect on the central nervous system – the very opposite effects of what you should be looking for from a good warm up!
At Ultimate Performance we like to have our personal training clients begin their exercise sessions with a general circulatory warm up such as 5 minutes walking on the treadmill (yes, as easy as that) and then start the real preparation work, both physical and mental, via a series of dynamic flexibility drills.
Dynamic flexibility exercises are movements performed without the use of prolonged static holding positions. They help to elongate the muscles and warm up the entire body without any of the negative consequences of static stretches. The best way to perform dynamic flexibility work is to stretch the tight areas of the body without ever stopping – simply move into and out of the stretch position repetitively until the tighter areas fell freer and more mobile.
The key to dynamic flexibility is moving slowly and never stopping the movement for more than one or two seconds. This technique allows the brain to constantly monitor the change in length of the muscles and specifically prepares the body for exercise. Below you will find a series of useful drills to try out, but bear in mind that the windmills you used to instinctively do on the school playing fields before a game of football are a great example of the natural simplicity of most good dynamic flexibility movements.
Stability Ball Movements
One advanced method of incorporating a dynamic flexibility programme is through the use of a stability ball. The stability ball challenges balance and coordination by providing an unstable surface on which the body has to move. This heightened challenge increases proprioception, better preparing the body for exercise.
Examples of dynamic-flexibility exercises, incorporating the use of a stability ball, that can be used as a specific warm-up program include (all the following movements commence with the trainee sitting upright on the ball):
Tilt the pelvis by moving it in an anterior and posterior (forward and backward) direction. This motion will begin to warm up the muscles around the spine and pelvic floor as well as gradually preparing the nervous system for integrated movement. Once you become proficient at performing anterior and posterior motion, progression can be accomplished by adding lateral motion, circles and figure of eights.