When you think of stretching, static stretching is usually the first thing to come to mind. Static stretching has been used as a pre-sport warm-up and post-sport cooldown for many years. Although new research is showing that it should only be done as a cooldown and not during warm up for sports requiring strength, power and explosive muscular performance. Static stretching consists of taking a muscle, or specific muscle group, to a fully lengthened position and then holding that position for a set amount of time. Usually, that time ranges between 15 and 45 seconds. This timed hold is then repeated two to three times per stretch.
Dynamic stretching is a more active kind of stretching and has become the main staple in a pre-sport warm-up. During dynamic stretching, both your muscles and joints will move through a full range of motion multiple times. This is a more sport-specific approach because you’re not just stretching the muscles, you are also contracting them and warming them up for the activity. It can also be modified to incorporate movement patterns specific to those that will be done during a specific sport or workout. For example, a baseball player will have more dynamic movements to perform at the shoulder than a soccer player would because their sport requires more shoulder movement. The types of dynamic movements performed should mimic the sport you are about to play.
When should I stretch?
Dynamic stretching should be paired with some kind of active warm-up before participating in a training session, practice, or game. Examples of an active warm-up are running, riding a bike, or swimming. The purpose of the active warm-up is to increase heart rate and to warmup the muscles and joints. Dynamic exercises should try to incorporate sport-specific movements and the whole program should last around 10-15 minutes. Research has shown that dynamic stretching has the most benefit before activity when compared to static stretching.
Static stretching has been suggested to be more beneficial after activity as part of your cool-down routine. Static stretching is also beneficial as a maintenance program to help keep your flexibility. Maintenance programs are typically sessions of stretching done 2-3 times per week, right after a work out or right before bed. If your sport requires a higher level of flexibility, such as gymnastics or dance, static stretching may have benefits if performed with dynamic stretching right before sport participation.
Does stretching help increase my performance?
A systematic review showed that both types of stretching have shown to increase range of motion within your joints and those effects usually lasted more than 30 minutes. Research has shown that static stretching immediately before activity can decrease muscle strength and performance in running and jumping. However, dynamic stretching has shown small-moderate performance improvements when completed right before activity. As mentioned earlier, dynamic stretching has more sport-specific movements and increases muscle activation which will better prepare you right before participating in sport. Static stretching can play an important role in the maintenance of flexibility during the season and the off-season after performance. Some individuals may respond differently to each method of stretching so some routines might need to be personalized to best fit that individual.
In summary, both types can benefit your performance if they are done at the proper times and proper volume.
Does stretching help prevent injuries?
Research has shown that stretching isn’t effective at decreasing the incidence of overall injuries. More research needs to be done to see if stretching programs by themselves can reduce injury rates. However, stretching has been shown to help with recovery and rehabilitation after injury. Both static and dynamic stretching are intricate parts of a rehabilitation program and will help return athletes back to their sport.
At Chiros in Motion, we teach both static and dynamic stretches to help our athletes increase range of motion, decrease muscle tightness, and better prepare themselves for their sport. We also utilize other forms of stretching during treatment that are clinician-assisted.