Last week, I spent a lot of time speaking with fitness coaches and chiropractors and health professionals who specialize in injury (and injury-prevention). And while we were mostly discussing barefoot running, one non-running-specific phrase (that I’d never heard of) came up over and over again: “dynamic movement prep.” Which is, apparently, the single most important thing that no one’s doing. But what is it?
Apparently, the static stretching that we’ve all been doing–you know, where you stand in place and pull on various muscles, like in the photo above–is wrong. Or at the very least, according to both fitness professionals and scientists, not as comprehensive or as good for the body as movement preparation (that’s stretching or warming up) that includes fluid, range-of-motion activities, which better prepare the muscles and joints for the strain that they’re about to endure.
Dr. Brent DeShaw, who himself is an avid runner in addition to being a chiropractor, has seen his fair share of injuries from running and other sports. But, he says, use of dynamic preparation can help prevent them. In fact, he says, static stretching beforehand can even be more harmful, because it may only stretch certain muscles–which may not even be the ones you’re about to use.
“I wouldn’t recommend stretching right before a run. It’s better to go for a slower paced, not-very-intense walk or slight jog, instead of specific stretching, which can emphasize the wrong muscles, and leave others cold.”
“I’m kind of anti-stretching.” She told me. “I would, at most, stretch for a few seconds…but it can actually be worse. Something that’s worked for me is yoga, instead of static stretching.”
So how does a person get in on this secret, better form of stretching? First, by warming up naturally, the way that Dr. DeShaw recommends. Try walking to the gym, or doing a short, easy jog on the treadmill once you get there. Or, if you’re taking a class or doing some other kind of fitness routine, ask your instructor or trainer to incorporate dynamic, movement-based preparation. And if you’re practicing solo? Find a reputable source for guidance, like this instructional video from YogaDork.
Static stretching still has its fans–I’m sure we’ll hear from some of them in the comments section–and it can feel pretty damn good after a long workout. But if you’re really serious about keeping injury at bay, consider asking your fitness or healthcare professional about what kind of dynamic movement prep might be right for you.