by Apple Therapy

How do I maximize performance and reduce injuries? When am I supposed to stretch? What is the best way to warm up? How long and when should I roll? Does any of this actually help? Is there any potential harm? When am I supposed to what?

I think the reason people are confused is because there are so many studies with varying results, and we see the different headlines come across our newsfeed every day. I took two of the more recent larger systematic review articles looking at the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance and the effects of foam rolling (and twenty years of experience) to help tease out some of the noise and give you my best advice.

Generally, a warm-up to minimize impairments and enhance performance should be composed of a light aerobic activity (stationary bike, walking, marching in place) followed by dynamic stretching (leg swings, arm circles) and then completed with sport specific dynamic activities (jumping, cutting or swinging).

Rolling (deep, slow, self-myofascial work on a semi-firm cylinder or ball) after warm up has been shown to improve ROM, but not improve immediate muscle performance. Follow up your activity with rolling of every muscle possible for 90-120 seconds each to reduce risk of injury, muscle soreness and improve muscle performance.

Traditional static stretching, has been shown to inhibit performance in above average to elite athletes who already have normal muscle length, particularly when performed aggressively longer than 90 seconds. However, static stretches can be of benefit for below average, tight, or injured athletes, particularly after activities.

Recap, before activity:
  1. Short light cardio warm-up.
  2. Progress into dynamic stretches and then sports specific activities.
  3. Roll your trouble areas at least 90-120 seconds.
After activities:
  1. Roll every muscle you have time for at least 90-120 seconds.
  2. OK for most people to gently stretch muscles with length deficits.
Foam Rolling