Are You Stretching Correctly?

Most of us think we know how to stretch. It is pretty simple, right? Bend here, twist there, reach for your toes, hold in place for 20-30 seconds. If this sounds familiar, you are performing static stretches. But, did you know there are actually two methods of stretching: static stretching and dynamic stretching?

Most of us have been taught to perform static stretching where we hold a stretch position for 20-30 seconds without movement. If you are looking to improve flexibility, mobility, and sports performance, current research shows dynamic stretching is actually more beneficial.

Before we get into the differences of static and dynamic stretching, let's first review a few of the benefits of stretching, flexibility, and mobility:

  • Decreased muscle stiffness

  • Increased range of motion which can aid in injury prevention

  • Reduced or manage stress

  • Improved mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance

  • Promote circulation

  • Prepare the body for the stress of exercise

What is dynamic stretching?

We already know that static stretching involves holding a stretch position for a period of time without movement. Dynamic stretching is stretching with movement. Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that prepare your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue for safety and performance. Dynamic stretches can be functional movements that mimic the activity you are about to perform. For example, a swimmer may perform arm circles before they get into the water to swim. The stretches can also be a series of movements to get the body ready before any type of exercise like leg swings, hip flexor presses, and hip openers before a lower-body exercise.

What are the benefits?

According to HHS, the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health, the functional and sports specific movements of dynamic stretches increase muscle temperature and decrease muscle stiffness, which helps to promote fluid movement and minimize injury.

Unlike static stretching, which has been shown to have a temporary decrease in muscular performance, dynamic stretching has been shown to have an increase in the ability of a muscle to produce force. Everything is connected. For example, when your hamstrings are tight they can pull at your pelvis which can in turn cause lower back pain. Even if just one part of your body is sore, dynamic, movement-based stretching can help ease the tension throughout your entire body.

When you should do dynamic and when you should do static: Is one more beneficial?

Both static stretching and dynamic stretching have their benefits but when you should perform them will be different. Dynamic stretching is especially beneficial before a workout or athletic performance as it allows the body to warm up, go through full ranges of motion, and mimic sport-specific activity. Static stretching is best when done after exercise as we cool down when the body is already warmed up.

Put this into action

Prior to exercising or a sporting event spend 10-15 minutes performing movement-based dynamic stretches. Some examples include:

  • Hip openers (as seen in our YouTube video)

  • Leg swings

  • Hamstring sweeps

  • Knee to chest

  • Page turn chest opener

  • Thread the needle

Try adding some of these dynamic stretches to your pre and post-exercise routines, or come in for Darcy’s Stretch and Flexibility class on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. to practice guided flexibility and mobility exercises.

If you would like help creating a dynamic stretching and mobility routine specific to your needs, contact us to schedule an appointment.

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