The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching and SMR Pre-Workout
By: Stephanie Ruopp
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the importance of stretching and how the way we stretch makes a difference depending on whether it’s before or after vigorous activity.
We discussed static stretching and how it was once believed the best way to stretch before working out. Static stretching consists of long holds that relax the muscle to enhance flexibility. These are the stretches often found in yoga.
Now we know that dynamic stretching and SMR before working out are far more beneficial than static stretching. So for the sake of this post, we’ll take a closer look at these two modalities.
What Exactly is Dynamic Stretching?
In fitness studios and gyms, dynamic stretching is arguably the most dominant and popular type of stretching right now.
Yet, depending on your definition of the word, you may not recognize them as what you’ve come to understand as “stretching.” Again, for most of us, we think of the type of static stretching that one would do in a yoga class.
Dynamic stretches are not that.
As their name suggests, dynamic stretches incorporate movement. These moving stretches help to safely increase the range of motion in the muscles and joints.
They also get the body warmed up and blood flowing in preparation for a more rigorous workout. If you’ve taken any fitness classes recently, you can be sure you’ve done dynamic stretching.
Some examples include high knees, butt kicks, leg swings, walking lunges, alternating side lunges without weight, jumping jacks, and thoracic spine rotations. And that’s just to name a few. They’re really any movement that involves actively tightening your muscles while moving your joints through their full range of motion.
A physical therapist could tell you that dynamic stretches work with the muscle spindles or the sensors within your muscles to determine the speed at which you’re stretching your muscles. All you need to know though is that these movements improve speed, agility, and acceleration and help to boost muscle temperature while lessening muscle stiffness.
So obviously, they’re an amazing way to prep the body for running, sports, dance, or any other cardio activity. But another method fitness enthusiasts are utilizing is SMR.
How Does Dynamic Stretching Differ From SMR?
First of all, let’s start by saying that SMR stands for Self-Myofascial Release.
If you’re not familiar, fascia is the connective tissue that’s found throughout nearly every part of your body. It blankets your visceral organs, nerves, blood vessels and cells. In essence, fascial tissue holds your body together.
Where it covers the muscles it’s referred to as myofascial tissue.
SMR is a form of self massage that involves the use of tools such as foam rollers, firm massage balls, or massage sticks to clear up restrictions and muscle knots. At the same time, it can break down adhesions and scar tissue to increase flexibility of the soft tissue and improve range of motion in the joints. So it’s rather like stretching in this regard.
Body Awareness Through SMR
Many activities require us to have a deep comprehension of our own unique anatomy and an understanding of the sensations of the body.
For example, professional dancers learn how to isolate every single muscle of their body. They are keenly aware of what it takes to move from one position to another.
Now, a runner, cyclist, or someone engaged in a cross-training session may not have quite this level of awareness. Yet one of the secondary benefits of SMR comes from learning to contract our muscles against the tools to experience pressure in parts of our bodies that are rarely accessed.
And there is tremendous value in the ritual of getting into different positions and experiencing sensations in these formerly ignored places. In the end, it all leads to improved body awareness for better workouts.
SMR Is More Than Just Muscle Engagement.
SMR is also a means for relaxation and bringing the mind to a one-pointed focus before engaging in an activity. While those first few movements on the foam roller or tennis ball can feel agonizing, as contraction of the muscle moves pressure outward, the muscle will experience fuller relaxation while allowing pressure in.
You have to be mindful that you’re not creating movements that become progressively more painful. By permitting your body to adapt and breathing into the movement, you will enable to pressure to sink deeper into the tissues.
And the more controlled your breathing is while experiencing the pressure, the more the relaxation you’ll feel. It’s a pretty simple but amazing system!
The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching and SMR Are Far Reaching
Now that you understand the benefits of dynamic stretching and SMR, you may want more hands-on experience with them yourself.
Please contact us to work with our physical therapists or Pilates instructors to get a deeper understanding of these two great modalities BEFORE you hit your next workout.