In Part 1 of this series, you learned that yoga will not reduce your risk of injury or make you faster, but it does have benefits such as relaxation, meditation and breath control. In fact, multiple research studies have shown that static stretching such as yoga, in which you go into a stretching position and hold it for 5, 10 or 20 seconds, can actually inhibit the amount of force that a muscle can produce and limit your physical performance in any jumping, running or explosive movement activity you may be doing after that stretching session. And further data has shown that static stretching doesn’t even reduce your risk of injury, which used to be one of the primary reasons that you may have been led to believe you should do static stretching before exercise - or a daily yoga routine!
So, if you do need to increase your range of motion for a sport like triathlon, and you’re not flexible enough to move your shoulders through the swim stroke, or your hips through a proper running gait cycle, what should you do? This is where dynamic stretching comes in.
Also known as ballistic stretching, dynamic stretching is a stark contrast to static stretching in terms of its ability to adequately prepare you for an exercise session. Studies have shown that dynamic stretching can improve power, strength, and performance during a subsequent exercise session.
So here are five dynamic stretch moves to get you started. To warm-up before a triathlon, run, swim or bike ride, simply do one round of each.
Leg Swings: Hold on to a wall, bar or anything else that adds support, then swing one leg out to the side, then swing it back across your body in front of your other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Frankenstein Walk: Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward and lift your legs straight out in front while flexing your toes. For a more advanced version, you can do this with a skipping motion. Walk for 10-20 yards.
Walking Lunges: Step forward using a long stride, keeping the front knee over or just behind your toes. Lower your body into a lunging position by dropping your back knee toward the ground. Then push forward, take a giant step, and repeat for the opposite leg. To make this motion even more effective, twist and look back towards the leg that is behind you once you’re in the lunging position.
Bent Torso Twists: Stand with your feet wide apart, then extend your arms out to the sides and bend over, touching your right foot with your left hand. When you’re bent, keep your back straight and your shoulder blades pulled back. Then rotate your torso so your right hand touches your left foot. Keep both arms fully extended so that when one hand touches your foot, the other hand is pointing to the sky. Keep rotating like this for 20-30 repetitions.
Deep Body Weight Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and your arms held out in front of your body. Then drop as low as you can, pushing your butt out behind you, keeping your knees behind your toes and swinging your arms back. Stand and bring the arms back to the starting position. Complete 10-15 deep squat repetitions.
Just like a rubber band, a muscle is always more pliable when it is at a higher temperature, so if you want to train your body to move through a greater range of motion during your dynamic stretching, you can do 5-10 minutes of light cardio before beginning this dynamic stretching routine. Here's an example of a dynamic warm-up that can be performed before your dynamic stretching.
Finally, dynamic stretching sometimes doesn’t do the trick. In this case, you need to turn to your fascia, which can be the underlying culprit of excessive tightness.
Think of your fascia as a giant sheath of connective tissue that covers your muscles. Just like any other connective tissue in your body, it can get tight, and the fibers that form fascia can become stuck together in what is called an “adhesion.” Here are a few things that can help to help remove fascial adhesions and improve range of motion while reducing stiffness:
- Trigger Point Therapy
- Myofascial Therapy
- Deep Tissue Massage
- Myofascial Release
- Active Release Technique
Ultimately, there is a time and place for yoga. But it’s definitely not directly before a race or training session. I personally do my yoga routine a few times a week, typically in the morning while meditating and focusing on breath control. For more information on yoga for triathletes read part 1 of this series. If you have questions, comments or feedback, leave them below!
TrainingPeaks contributor Ben Greenfield, M.S. PE, NSCA-CPT, CSCS, is recognized as one of the top fitness, triathlon, nutrition and metabolism experts in the nation. For more information on coaching and training with Ben, check out his blog/podcasts, follow him on Twitter, or visit his Facebook page.