How often do you warm up before physical activity? This should be an essential part of any athletic endeavor, but it’s often left by the wayside. Unfortunately, skipping this five-minute step often leads to injury in casual and professional athletes alike.
As a talented orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jared Tadje sees sports injuries on a regular basis at Tadje Orthopaedics in Meridian, Idaho.
Over his career, Dr. Tadje has worked closely with Big Ten athletes across several sports, including basketball, football, and hockey. He also enjoys athletic pursuits in his free time, including mountain biking and snowboarding.
All of this experience gives Dr. Tadje a unique perspective on diagnosing, treating, and preventing sports injuries.
If you enjoy physical activity, Dr. Tadje recommends performing these five stretches beforehand, whether you’re a serious or not-so-serious athlete.
Why stretching matters
Before looking closer at the five stretches you should never skip, let’s take a closer look at why stretching even matters.
There’s a reason this physical activity is called the “warmup.” These exercises focus on warming up your soft tissue, especially the muscles, so they become more flexible and move easier. As a result, your short stretching warmup works to:
- Relax your muscles, leading to less injury risk
- Increase blood flow and oxygen
- Improve performance and range of motion
- Reduce muscle stiffness, tension, and pain
You can customize a warmup routine to specific forms of exercise. But some stretches benefit every activity.
In most cases, these involve dynamic stretches that incorporate movement, rather than static stretches that you hold for a period of time. Static stretches often provide the best benefit after physical activity as part of your cooldown.
Squats are a highly beneficial warmup that can target numerous muscles in your lower body all at one time, from your glutes to your quads and hamstrings. You can also increase the difficulty of this stretch as you warm up by deepening your squat or adding weights.
To do a squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Then engage your core and keep your back straight while slowly lowering your hips toward the ground. Stop with your thighs parallel to the floor and knees over your toes, and exhale. Return slowly to a standing position.
Repeat 12-15 times for 1-3 sets.
Nothing beats a plank for building core and back strength while improving posture and balance at the same time. And like squats, you can make this stretch more challenging as you warm up.
Generally speaking, a plank looks like a fully extended pushup position, where you balance on your palms and toes. Beginners can start on their knees, and more advanced athletes can perform planks on their forearms.
When you get into your ideal plank position, keep your core muscles tight, back straight, and head in a neutral position, not sagging. Hold your position for 30-60 seconds.
When warming up, don’t ignore your spine, which makes the torso twist a key exercise before any activity.
To stretch your trunk, stand with your feet pointing forward and shoulder-width apart. Hold your arms close to your body with a 90-degree bend at the elbow. Once in position, twist your entire trunk from one side to another, keeping your feet firmly in place.
When performing torso twists, use gentle and controlled movements.
Get your upper body ready for activity with arm circles. This simple exercise stretch not only gets the blood flowing, but it can help build muscle tone in your biceps, triceps, and shoulders.
In fact, you could enjoy this simple stretch so much, you’ll start doing it everywhere, even while binging on your favorite online series.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and stretch your arms wide, parallel to the floor. Start circling your arms forward in a small, controlled motion. As your muscles warm up, make the circles bigger until you feel a stretch in your tricep.
After 10 seconds, reverse direction.
Last but not least, give your hip flexors and hamstrings a little attention, which calls for a controlled leg swing.
Stand on one leg and swing the other in front of you and behind for 20-30 seconds, like a pendulum. Then switch sides.
While performing leg swings, keep your abdominal muscles engaged so your back doesn’t arch. It’s also OK to perform this stretch next to a wall or sturdy chair for balance.
If you have a sports injury or worry about a recurring problem, learn more about our sports medicine services at Tadje Orthopaedics by calling 208-515-2654 today.