According to Mayo Clinic, stretching has proven to help improve your muscle flexibility and increase performance. If you’re about to begin intense physical activity, you’ll want to first create a pre-workout routine that incorporates stretching relevant to the work you’ll be putting in. Stretches are categorized into two types, static stretches and dynamic stretches. Both types of stretches have benefits to your overall health.
In a static stretch, you hold your stretch in a set position for a short amount of time. Most people add in static stretches before a run or heavy lifting. Static stretches are held for about 20-45 seconds.
Some examples of static stretches include:
- Posterior capsule stretch: Relax your shoulder and stretch one arm across your body. Use the other arm to hold the outstretched arm in place. This stretch is helpful for anyone using overhead or throwing motions.
- Hamstring stretch: Place one leg on a stool and the other on a flat surface. Lean forward, keeping your hips and knees straight.
- Quadriceps stretch: Bend your knee back and hold your ankle with the same-sided hand. Keep your stomach muscles tight to prevent your back from creating an arch and causing injury.
Benefits of Static Stretches
Static stretches are useful for:
- Improving flexibility and range of motion
- Decreasing muscle soreness
- Increasing blood flow
- Providing relaxation
In order to maintain its health benefits, you should utilize static stretching often. It can be used to warmup or cool down from an exercise, or even if you are stuck behind a desk. Stretching routinely increases your blood flow and helps maintain flexibility progression. Failing to continue using static stretches for an extended period can negate your improvements.
Dynamic stretches apply your muscles to their full range of motion. Like static stretches, dynamic stretches are useful when preparing for a workout, but can be especially important in sports. They tighten muscles that will be used the most during specific movements, such as twists, lunges, and squats.
Some examples of dynamic stretches include:
- Torso twists: Stand with your feet facing forward and shoulder width apart. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. While staying controlled, twist your torso from side to side. Do not force any movements.
- Walking lunge: Put your hands on your waist and take a step forward and make a lunge. During your lunge, keep your plant knee in front of your hip and ankle and place your back knee into the ground as if to kneel. Keep your back straight throughout the motion.
- Leg swing: Swing your leg either front-to-back or side-to-side in a controlled fashion. Start with a small swing and work your way up until you extend your leg through its full range of motion. Your abdomen should feel engaged and your back should be straight.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic stretches are useful for:
- Engaging muscles to their full range of motion
- Preparing for high-level activity
- Optimizing muscle groups for peak performance
- Improving flexibility and circulation
- Decreasing soreness and potential risk of injury
Dynamic stretches are reflective of the activity you will be performing. For example, walking and then slowly increasing your pace prepares your muscles for a long run or jog. Prior to any physical activity, you should gradually prepare your muscles to prevent injury and increase performance.
Choosing Your Stretch
Static and dynamic stretching can be used to prepare for sports, heavy workouts, or even for improving your health from behind a desk. The stretch you choose should go together with the activity you are about to perform.
In the unfortunate circumstance that you are injured, you may be advised to begin a physical therapy program that includes a variety of stretches.