People love to skip the warm-up, but for aerial arts as with most sports this can cause everything from torn muscles to false fatigue. Dynamic stretching has been put through the ringer in exercise science studies and has come out as the safest and most effective way to warm-up.
Dynamic stretching consists of controlled active movement going from static to active within a safe range of motion. Warming up with dynamic stretches means gradually increasing range of motion, but also increasing blood flow to the muscles and soft tissues, plus elevating the heart rate and core temperature, basically it tells your body “we are getting ready to work.”
Dynamic stretching is best when it is designed for a specific sport, which is why we design our workouts with pole or aerial arts in mind. When dynamic stretching, focus on controlling the movements, flowing in and out of stretches to slowly find range of motion for a few seconds. This is not the ballistic stretching of the 1950s, like reaching for your toes while standing and then bouncing downward to touch them in jerky movements. Ballistic stretching activates the stretch reflex in repetition and may cause the muscles to tighten instead of release, plus if your muscles and tissues are cold you may tear something with this movement. If you can avoid bouncing while stretching for the rest of your life, this would be a good thing.
Before we get into a few examples of dynamic stretch, let’s explain that static stretching is holding a stretch for 30 seconds or more while releasing into the stretch. This is great at the end of a workout, but actually decreases strength output and explosive power before a workout. Placing static stretching into the cool down is the most effective place to gain flexibility and reduce muscle fatigue and soreness post workout. Just saying, don’t skip the cool down either!
Here are three awesome dynamic stretches that can help you warm-up for aerial arts. Remember to always listen to your body, the advanced athlete knows when to stop.
Circle the arms around your body like you are swimming. We like to cue slowly, like you are swimming through mud, so that the muscles and soft tissues are not strained with fast movement. We are opening up the shoulder joints and the muscles that work with the shoulder joints. Go both forward and back for at least 30 seconds each way.
2. Leg Extensions
Hold a pole or wall and with control extend your leg forward and back in a soft lifting movement. Find a comfortable range of motion for your hip. You may concentrate on forward extension 10 times and then focus on the back extension 10 times. We are activating the quads, glutes and hamstrings, plus the connective tissues around the hips; try another set with a bent knee to warm the tissues at the knees. The goal is not to find our deepest expression of a leg extension but to progressively awaken the muscles for work.
Twists involve turning the body from the torso. Think about turning the ribcage side to side and leaving the hips and legs softly planted. This movement warms the spine and core. Move for 30 seconds or more.