Do you know the difference between static, active, and dynamic stretching? There are different types of stretching techniques and we must not only learn how to do them but more importantly when to do them! There have been many discussions over the last decade on what kind of stretching delivers the highest benefits and when you should include them in your fitness routine. Let’s discuss them.
This is the most popular and most “traditional’ form of stretching. For years we were told to static stretch prior to workouts, we went through static stretching routines before sports practice and we static stretch in gym class before any activity. However, times have changed! Static stretching is when you hold your muscle in a challenging, tense position for 20-30 seconds. This should be performed when your muscles are warm and you are done exercising not prior to when your muscles are cold! Finish off your workout with slow, static holds to promote increased range of motion and flexibility.
An active stretch is very similar to static stretching but instead of holding for 20-30 seconds you only hold 2-3 seconds. Gently stretch each muscle and hold 2-3 seconds and release, performing 5-10 repetitions. This type of stretching is perfect prior to beginning exercise. This helps to activate your muscle and help prepare the muscle for activity by going through a full range of motion for reps. For example, before performing a leg press or squat, take both quad muscles through some active stretching reps. Stand tall, bend your knee grabbing your foot and pull your foot in a straight line behind you. Feel a deep stretch in your quad and hip-flexors for 2 seconds and then release for multiple repetitions each leg.
The ultimate pre-workout routine should be solid 3-5 minutes of dynamic movements. This is not exactly a traditional “stretch” per se, but when it comes to any fitness regimen you want to start your workout this way. Dynamic stretching is taking your body through full, multi-joint movements that mimic your upcoming activity. Moving your body through all planes of motion is the best way to get your body ready for exercise while also increasing your heart rate and the blood flow to all muscles. You want to perform movements that will be similar to the exercises ahead and to stimulate and warm-up those particular muscle groups. For example, before you jump on the bench press it would be highly beneficial to perform 20-30 seconds of Push-ups with rotation. This will activate your chest muscles, as well as your core and shoulder stabilizers putting you in a much safer place to perform your lift. Use this info to help you stretch yourself beyond your limits!