Stretching is the source of a lot of debate in training and performance circles. Where the general opinion on pre-event static stretching is largely agreed upon (clue, don't do it), there remains a little ambiguity around dynamic stetches. In this article, we're going to look at what dynamic stretching is, then suggest some dynamic stretches for triathletes.
It's an article aimed at all triathletes, because regardless of your level you should always be aware of possible performance benefits, especially from something so simple as an effective pre-event dynamic stretch sequence.
Time to read: 5 minutes
- What are Dynamic Stretches?
- Are Dynamic Stretches Effective?
- Dynamic Stretches for Triathletes
- Incorporating Dynamic Stretches for Triathletes into Training
- KYMIRA Clothing and Dynamic Stretches
In this article, we're going to look at what dynamic stretching is, then suggest some dynamic stretches for triathletes.
What are Dynamic Stretches?
Dynamic stretches are movement-based stretches that are designed to improve muscle and joint mobility through movement, rather than just elongating a muscle. Unlike a static hold such as a yoga pose, they're designed to improve mobility as it relates specifically to a sport.
In English, this means that dynamic stretches should be relevant to an activity, rather just generically-prescribed. In this case of this article, dynamic stretches for triathletes need to be helpful for triathlon disciplines – swimming, cycling and running.
Are Dynamic Stretches Effective?
The overwhelming evidence is that yes, dynamic stretches are effective. In this study on the effects of dynamic stretches on the range of motion of the hamstrings , dynamic stretches were shown to improve muscle flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
Another reason that dynamic stretches have gained so much popularity in coaching and performance circles is because they don't appear to have a negative impact on muscle function.
Research conducted over the past decade or more has concluded that pre-event static stretching should be avoided because of performance-reduction factors, including reduction in strength, power, contraction rate and force production. In this study , different types of static stretch were performed prior to a 20m sprint test. The research concluded that each of the three types of stretch lead to a significant reduction in performance across both genders.
If coaches and athletes can improve pre-event mobility and reduce injury risk, all the time without reducing performance it's a huge benefit. This is why dynamic stretches are growing in popularity.
Dynamic Stretches for Triathletes
When considering stretches for a particular sport, we have to look at the movement requirements we have. In the case of triathlon, we have to improve fully-body movement and mobility because the sport requires use of all limbs.
This is particularly effective because it trains the body through movement (the lunge and knee flexion pattern) which is fundamental to running and cycling. It's also an excellent way to introduce trunk mobility into a movement, a key aspect of swimming. It's a great way to bring about rotation in the movement without being too aggressive at first.
The key point with dynamic stretches of the shoulder is that in the early stages, they shouldn't be aggressive – the point here is to warm up, not stretch the tissues too far. In these exercises there is a level of trunk stability maintained, whilst the shoulders move from a static point. In the warm-up this is important – the idea is to gradually improve range of movement.
These exercises help to mobilise the thoracic spine – a key part of the upper back and neck. On first glace these might not seem relevant, but they're fundamental to preventing the kind of back and neck issues which can cause real concern for cyclists . By mobilising the thoracic spine we can improve rider position, comfort and reduce injury risk.
The lower back and hips are fundamental to the triathlon disciplines – as the junction between the upper and lower body we need to ensure the hips are sufficiently warm and mobile. Stiff hips will affect running, swimming and cycling efficiency and technique.
These series of exercises warm up the hamstrings and the hips, so they have a double benefit. They're a dynamic movement that benefits both the flexion and extension of the lower limbs from the hip joint. This movement is fundamental to running, cycling and swimming so is a perfect dynamic stretch for triathletes.
The advantage of a dynamic stretch over a static stretch is the fact that it is movement based, so this means you can increase the mobility of a joint through its entire range of motion. This 3D stretch initiates movement based mobility in multiple directions, which will have clear performance and injury-prevention benefits.
We can't think about lower body dynamic stretches for triathletes without considering glute stretches. The gluteal muscle group is fundamental to performance and injury prevention – tight glutes will impact force production and cause knee and lower back pain, so they have to be sufficiently mobile ahead of exercise.
More commonly associated with yoga studios than dynamic stretches for triathletes, the cobra is an excellent trunk and abdominal stretch. The additional benefit of the cobra stretch is the extension of the lower back, which is opposite to the position the back will find itself in during the cycling element of the race.
Incorporating Dynamic Stretches for Triathletes into Training
Dynamic stretches need to be incorporated before the more intense movement takes place, but only after the initial ‘warm up'. This has the effect of improving blood flow to the tissues which in turn enhances tissue elasticity and pliability. Only then should the dynamic stretching works.
At this point, going through the stretch routine in any order will work. Some coaches have a particular order top to bottom for example, but there's no evidence in this being more effective so we won't make that recommendation – we'll simply suggest you get them all done in whichever way suits you!
Once you've sufficiently warmed and mobilised, it's time to get on with the more sport-specific elements of your warm and perform at your best!
KYMIRA Clothing and Dynamic Stretches
The KYnergy infrared fabric has been proven to act as a vasodilator, improving blood flow and enhancing tissue mobility. This means than alongside other performance benefits, KYMIRA clothing will compound the benefits of dynamic stretching and enhance movement and mobility further.