You’ve heard that stretching is important. As far as stretching is concerned, for every piece of research that comes out stating one thing, there always seems to be another new and contradictory study that comes out saying the complete opposite.
- Should you stretch before a workout or after it?
- Does stretching reduce your chances of injury or does it make you more prone to injury?
- Which is more important – static or dynamic stretching?
- Or maybe is it best not to stretch at all!
The simplest answer is – stretching is an important part of warming-up before, and cooling-down after a workout. Now comes the complicated part – static or dynamic stretching – you must know what exactly these are and when to do which one…so read on…
Static Stretching: Stretch and Hold
The best time to stretch is when the muscles are warm and pliable. Though static stretching is best done after a workout, they also play an important role in the warm up before an intense exercise. In such cases, start with light aerobic activity and then do some static stretching. If the muscles have not been properly warmed up, you put them at risk for tearing, cramping, etc.
Various techniques are used in static stretching to gradually lengthen a muscle to an elongated position, often to the point of discomfort and hold that position for about 30 seconds.
The Benefits of Static Stretching
- Static stretching improves flexibility and joint range of motion
- It prevents the soft tissues from absorbing high amounts of energy over a short durations.
- Static stretching helps in relaxation as it will not facilitate a strong reflex response.
- It helps alleviate muscle soreness.
- It can be performed individually, no special knowledge or equipment is required.
Dynamic Stretching: Stretching as you are moving
Dynamic stretching is best done before an exercise to prepare the joints for movement and muscles for optimal activation.
These stretches are designed to take a joint or a muscle through a challenging and repetitive motion, moving a body part further with each repetition. Reducing hip stiffness prior to starting a run or ride will reduce the risk of the dreaded overuse injury.
The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
- Dynamic stretching warms your body up even faster than low level aerobic activity.
- It enhances performance by improving kinesthetic awareness and flexibility.
- It improves kinesthetic awareness: Kinesthetic awareness is the understanding of where your body is in space and time. Dynamic stretching can mimic the exercises that you will perform during your workout to help your body get used to the movements.
- Improves Flexibility: Flexibility is defined as the range of motion about a joint. Dynamic stretching can help improve the range of motion around the joints in your body to help you perform better and may prevent injury.
Static and Dynamic stretching both have a place in the warm up before a workout, but it depends on the type and intensity of the workout or sport you are about to perform. It’s best to perform just static stretches after a workout to cool down. There are specific steps to performing a warm up – you need to do joint rotations first, then light aerobic activity before proceeding to static stretching and then dynamic stretching if needed.