Are you stretching before and after your workouts? You should be, stretching helps maintain flexibility, increases your range of motion and prevents shortening of your muscles. There are two types of stretches, static stretching and dynamic stretching.
Static, meaning still or motionless, involves holding a slow stretch, while dynamic stretches involve stretching as you move and are ideal as part of your warm up before your workout. Both stretches have similar goals (increase flexibility and prevent injury), but involve very different approaches seen here:
Static stretching involves holding a single stretch in one position without movement. An example would include leaning forward from a seated position to hold your foot as you hold your hamstrings in an elongated (stretched) position for 30 seconds. Static stretching lengthens muscle fibers and over time increases flexibility and is most effective and best performed AFTER your workout.
Remember when stretching to stretch to the point of tension, not pain. If you feel pain, you have stretched too far and need to back off slightly and reduce the amount of tension.
There are three basic types of static stretches:
- The Basic Hold – Simply stretch to tightness and hold a minimum of 30 seconds.
- Hold and Relax – Complete the Basic Hold, then relax slightly as you breath in and out and stretch to a new level of tightness and hold for an additional 30 seconds.
- Hold and Contract – Start your Basic Hold but as you reach tightness, contract (or flex) that muscle for 15-30 seconds. Relax and repeat.
Dynamic stretches use movement to stretch a muscle. Examples include arm rotations, hip or knee rotations, and neck circles. Dynamic stretches should be part of your pre-workout warm up as they increase your body’s blood circulation and temperature. Dynamic stretches also loosen tight muscles and joints prior to training.
Dynamic stretching should always be performed BEFORE your workout or active sport. Dynamic stretching works well for athletes as the stretches can be sport specific to warm up and prepare for the selected sport.
Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching:
You should not be concerned with whether or not to use one type of stretch over the other, but that you perform static stretching after your sports activity or workout and dynamic stretching pre-workout (before) to increase blood circulation and prevent injuries. While static stretches increase muscle and joint flexibility and prevent injuries such as muscle tears.
Using both static and dynamic stretching techniques in the appropriate time and setting will allow you to enjoy the benefits of both and the flexibility they provide.