This is a guest post by Seth Hymes.
At age 33, I am stronger, more agile, and have more energy than when I was 17. Yet only 3 years ago, I was constantly getting injured while working out, had lost my taste for physical activity, and was constantly achy and sore. This, in spite of the fact that I got regular massages and stretched regularly before every workout.
What I didn’t know was this: it was the stretching that was messing me up. I was shocked to discover that experts, scientists, and pro athletic trainers have all thrown out everything most of us know about stretching. 10 years of research and hundreds of studies have all concluded that the act of static stretching, holding a stretch for 6 or more seconds, is harmful before a workout. The studies demonstrate that classic stretches like touching your toes or pulling your arm across your body actually weaken the muscles and send a message to your nervous system to begin shutting down.
Instead, Pro Athletes prepare for a workout with something called dynamic stretching. These are active stretches done with movement, that simultaneously stretch the muscles, strengthen them, and wake up the nerves to prepare them for a workout. It raises your core temperature and gets your heart working.
I didn’t know a thing about this until about 6 months ago, when my new personal trainer had me do this dynamic warm up before our workouts. It was the weirdest thing ever. Sometimes we’d start with these funny hula hoop motions, lunges, walking on our tip toes back and forth down the gym. I remember thinking: how the heck is this going to help me? Is this some kind of joke?
Well this was no joke. After only 2 weeks of doing these weird warm up moves, and skipping the static stretches, I felt completely different. The aches in my body had subsided. I had more energy for my workouts, more flexibility, and more spring in my step. I was no longer getting injured during my workouts. Today, I feel better than I did when I was a teenager.
I was stunned. I’m a Licensed Massage Therapist with a lot of knowledge about fitness. I have worked with dozens of personal trainers, and never heard of a dynamic warm up. So I started to investigate.
I was shocked by what I discovered. I found articles from MSNBC, USA Today, the NY Times all reporting the same thing: the de facto stance within the pro athletic community is that static stretching before a workout is bad news. I found over 100 studies from medical journals, written by sports physiologists on the subject.
But that isn’t what shocked me. What shocked me is how a topic as significant as this still isn’t known to the majority of people. In fact, when reviewing the certification requirements for most personal trainers, I learned that most trainers are taught almost nothing about dynamic stretching.
Instead, people are still either encouraged to static stretch or just begin with a light log, skipping stretching altogether.
I thought this was kind of crazy. After all, if you’re trusting a professional certified personal trainer with your health and fitness, shouldn’t they be teaching you about the latest advances in injury prevention and performance? Shouldn’t they at least be warning you about the potential danger of such a common thing as conventional stretching?
I often think of what my life would be like if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to meet my trainer and switched to dynamic warm up. I’d probably still be fighting aches and pains, getting injured, and not enjoying my workouts. It was such a simple change to make, but unfortunately it is still something most people do not know about. After searching the net, I was further surprised to discover that while there are dozens of videos on youtube with sample dynamic stretching moves, there isn’t one easily accessible, comprehensive course on the topic.
That’s why I helped my trainers put up a new website called dynamicstretchingzone.com. It features tons of free information on dynamic stretching and contains the world’s first and only 40 plus move complete dynamic warm up course.