Stretching 101


One of the most common areas of weakness in trainees is flexibility. People tend to be injury prone when their mobility is poor. In my opinion, there is a high correlation between overall strength and flexibility. For example, if you are attempting to perform a full squat and A) your heels come up or B) you lean forward excessively, your lack of mobility is interfering with your ability to execute the movement through a full range of motion, consequently increasing the risk of injury and reducing the potential for muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. The good news is, anyone can improve their flexibility by utilizing some form of mobility work.

Dynamic stretching is a form of mobility work that should be done before a workout as it does not significantly affect the muscle’s ability to produce power. Dynamic stretching consists of fast movements that put the muscle(s) under tension at the maximum point of the range of motion for a very short period of time. Some examples of dynamic stretches are: forward/side lunges, high knees, straight leg kicks, arm circles, arm swings, jump squats, forward/leg swings, forward/side bends.

Static stretching is a form of mobility work that should be performed after a workout or at least 4 hours before. Your body temperature should be elevated before you begin your stretching routine. Many studies have proven that static stretching before a workout significantly decreases the muscle’s ability to produce power, especially during exercises that demand high levels of explosive strength such as sprinting and Olympic weightlifting.  Despite this, it is an effective way to increase flexibility as long as it is performed at the right time. In this form of stretching, the goal is to lengthen the muscle, once again reaching the maximum point of the range of motion and holding the position for 15-30 seconds. By lengthening the muscle, you are increasing its range of motion but are decreasing the speed at which the muscle is able to contract. Most yoga poses are essentially static stretches. Some other common stretches include the sit and reach, standing hamstring stretch, standing quad stretch, butterfly, etc.

There are many other ways to break up adhesions and increase mobility (foam rolling, PNF stretching, soft tissue treatment). Whether you trying to improve strength and performance or you are just looking for a way to minimize pain and reduce the occurrence of injuries and relax, utilizing dynamic and static stretching is a very effective way of improving your overall flexibility levels and thus increasing your overall fitness levels.

 

References:

The effect of static stretching on phases of sprint performance in elite soccer players. Sayers, A.L., Farley, R.S., Fuller, D.K., et al. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2008 Sep;22(5):1416-21.

Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Simic, L., Sarabon, N., Markovic, G. Motor Control and Human Performance Laboratory, University of Zagreb. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2013 Mar;23(2):  131-48.

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