Stretch multiple muscles simultaneously for good warm-ups


Stretches that work several muscle groups at once are great for upper-body warm-ups before a workout, an Australian study finds.

Getting the blood flowing

Although athletes and coaches often swear by stretching, many common pre-workout routines may not actually enhance performance, said lead author Matt McCrary, a master's degree candidate at the University of Sydney.

Higher load dynamic warm-ups are "the best bet" in most situations, said McCrary. For the upper body, these include pushups, dumbbell back flys, and resisted lateral raises, he told Reuters Health by email.

Dynamic stretches focus on getting the blood flowing and increasing range of motion by using multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Unlike static stretches, which generally involve holding a single pose for a minute or two, dynamic stretches use a series of controlled movements.

Read: Jump to fitness

To analyse the effect of upper body warm-ups, McCrary and colleagues reviewed findings from 31 past studies.

The review, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, included 628 people playing sports at many levels, from youth leagues to college athletics and adults in recreational activities. Most studies involved sports where upper body strength is essential, such as baseball, football, tennis, golf, kayaking and shot put.

The review found that high-intensity dynamic stretching improved strength and flexibility while delaying muscle soreness.

Low-intensity stretching has little effect

But low-intensity stretching had little effect on performance, which agrees with previous research on upper body warm-ups, McCrary said.

"Flexibility increases are generally unrelated to any type of performance improvements," he noted.

Heating and cooling during a warm-up also does little to improve performance, the study found. While applying heat to specific muscles before strenuous activity may minimise the loss of flexibility in the days following the workout, this practice didn't show other benefits.

Read: Why most fitness apps are simply gimmicks

And for baseball players, batting warm-ups didn't work as well when bats were much lighter or heavier than those used during games.

"This runs somewhat contradictory to the prevailing narrative that higher load warm-up is better than lower load warm-up," McCrary said.

"The two theories here are that warm-up swings with a heavier weight bat significantly and sub-optimally alter swing mechanics and/or that a resisted movement longer in duration than a baseball bat swing is necessary to produce a warm-up effect."

Fatigue by warm-up exercise

While high intensity dynamic stretching can help elite and professional athletes, the same warm-ups may not be a good idea for more casual exercisers, said Dr. Kazuki Takizawa, an associate professor of sports training science and exercise physiology at Hokkaido University in Japan.

"Warm-up exercises may reduce injury by improving performance for serious athletes," Takizawa said in an email. "But recreational athletes and weekend warriors are at a lower physical fitness level, especially in aerobic capacity, and they may fatigue by warm-up exercise and reduce performance."

Takizawa also made a distinction between endurance sports like long-distance running or cycling and more intense activities done for shorter periods.

"Short-term, high intensity exercises need vigorous warm-up," Takizawa said. "But long-term endurance exercises do not."

Read: Salsa your way to fitness

Because the study didn't look specifically at injury prevention, it's impossible to say for sure how intense dynamic stretching or other warm-ups might affect the risk for injuries, McCrary said.

"We haven't really zeroed in on what kinds of warm-ups best prevent injuries," he said. "Anecdotally, I feel like warm-ups definitely do play a role in injury prevention, however, further study is required before I'd be able to confidently make any recommendations or explain how or why this is the case."

Read More:

My 8 week journey to the 21km Two Oceans Marathon – Week '0'

'Shifting' is the new resistance training

Hot yoga: added value or gimmick?

Image: Man Stretching from Shutterstock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Voting Booth
What do you think about the SA government investigating Chinese online fashion retailer Shein over its business practices?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It’s a waste of resources that should go to local trade
30% - 1254 votes
I think Shein is being unfairly targeted
10% - 428 votes
Dig up the dirt! We must look out for SA retailers
43% - 1812 votes
I don’t mind, as long as the customer doesn’t suffer
18% - 745 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.