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1. The general warm up This phase of warm up consists of 5 to 15 minutes of light physical activity. The aim here is to elevate heart rate and respiratory rate, increase blood flow and increase muscle temperature.
2. Static stretching Next, 5 to 15 minutes of gentle static stretching should be used to gradually lengthen all major muscle groups and associated tendons of body.
3. The sports specific warm up During this phase of warm up, 10 to 15 minutes of sport specific drills and exercises should be used to prepare athlete for specific demands of their chosen sport.
4. Dynamic stretching Dynamic stretching involves a controlled, soft bounce or swinging motion to force a particular body part past its usual range of movement. The force of bounce or swing is gradually increased but should never become radical or uncontrolled.
Please note; dynamic stretching carries with it a high risk of injury if used incorrectly. Dynamic stretching is more for muscular conditioning than flexibility and is really only suited for professional, well trained, highly conditioned athletes. Dynamic stretching should only be used after a high level of general flexibility has been established.
All four parts are equally important and any one part should not be neglected or thought of as not necessary. All four elements work together to bring body and mind to a physical peak, ensuring athlete is prepared for activity to come.
So what conclusions can we make?
Stretching is beneficial, when used correctly. However, as with most activities there are rules and guidelines to ensure that they are safe, and stretching is no exception. Stretching can be extremely dangerous and harmful if used incorrectly.
Remember, stretching is just one very important component that assists to reduce risk of injury and improve athletic performance. The best results are achieved when stretching is used in combination with other injury reduction techniques and conditioning exercises. **********************
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For more information and articles on stretching, flexibility and sports injury, visit The Stretching & Sports Injury Newsletter at; www.TheStretchingHandbook.com.
Brad Walker is a prominent Australian sports trainer with more than 15 years experience in the health and fitness industry. Brad is a Health Science graduate of the University of New England and has postgraduate accreditations in athletics, swimming and triathlon coaching. He also works with elite level and world champion athletes and lectures for Sports Medicine Australia on injury prevention.