We all know that stretching is an integral part of any exercise routine. You want to do some kind of stretching both before and after your exercise routine to keep your muscles flexible. It’s also important to stretch to avoid injury if you are doing any kind of sport that involves bouncing, jumping, or any high intensity.
But which kind of stretching should you be doing? And when?
Is static stretching better than dynamic stretching? What’s the difference?
We’ll answer those questions here so that you’ll know which type of stretching to do when and why.
What is static stretching?
Static stretching is the stretching that most of us are familiar with. It is the classic ‘bend down and touch your toes’ kind of a stretch.
It is called static stretching because you are staying in one place while stretching. You are focusing on stretching one particular muscle group at a time, such as your hamstrings, when bending down to touch your feet. Another example is when you move one arm across your body to stretch the arm muscles.
Static stretching does not develop your muscles, nor does it improve your athletic performance. Doing static stretching before sports can decrease your power and performance.
The purpose of static stretching is to relax your muscles. Static stretching is best done after your exercise workout.
Examples of static stretching
Here are two examples of static stretching exercises:
Upper-back stretch. Stand up straight with your feet just over hip-distance apart. Bend your knees slightly. Stretch out both arms at shoulder height with your fingers interlocked. Push your hands out away from your chest as you exhale. You want to feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.
Standing hamstring stretch. Stand with your feet together, leaning slightly forwards with both legs straight. Now bend one knee as you lean forward, keeping your back flat. You should feel it along the back of the hamstrings of your straight leg. You can have your hands on your thighs while you stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Top tips for static stretching: Avoid overextension or going so far as to cause pain. You should be able to tolerate the stretch while feeling it in your muscles. Breathe in through your nose as you start the stretch, then out through your mouth as you lean into it, without making any bouncing or jerking movements. Hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds.
What is dynamic stretching?
In dynamic stretching, you are continually moving while stretching, rather than just staying in one place. One example is lunges while you move forward, one foot at a time.
In dynamic stretching, you are lengthening your connective tissue while increasing your muscles’ range of motion. One way to enhance your dynamic stretching is with resistance bands, like these at victoremgear.com.
The goal of dynamic stretching is to improve your performance. It is functional and is often used before athletics or running.
Dynamic stretching improves not only your muscle strength but your performance and your flexibility.
Examples of dynamic stretching
Here are some examples of dynamic stretching:
- Walking while raising your knee to chest height. Exhale as you bring your knee up.
- Trunk twists. Swing your arms from one side to the other while you pivot on the ball of one foot and then the other.
- Leg kicks, either out in front of you, behind you, or to the side. Make sure you’re following the correct form for your back.
- Crab walks. Crab walks can be done with a resistance band around your thighs for extra strength-building.
- Heel-to-butt jogging. Start slowly at first, then gradually speed up.
- Jumping jacks
- Shoulder circles
- Leg squats
Dynamic stretching tips: You want to control your movement while doing these stretches for maximum benefit. Start slowly and allow your joints to wake up gradually. If you are doing a variety of dynamic stretches that include aerobic ones such as jogging or jumping jacks, do those first.
An ideal amount of time for dynamic stretching before a workout is 6 to 12 minutes.
Even if you aren’t working out every day, doing some form of dynamic stretching can improve your performance and therefore your results.
Which type of stretching is better?
Neither one is better; they just serve different purposes.
Dynamic stretching warms up your muscles and can increase your heart rate and body temperature, so it is the better choice before working out or participating in sports.
Static stretching can help relax the muscles and increase blood circulation, so it is the better option if you want to target specific muscle groups after exercise.