Ask any fitness professional and you will be given an array of information as to why you should or should not stretch. Should I stretch before? Or after? How long should I stretch? Wait...There are different types of stretching?
It can become confusing and difficult to distinguish fact from research or hand me down information when it comes to stretching. It is known that stretching is a fantastic tool to help alleviate different aches and pains, as well as help in the prevention of injuries during exercise, if performed correctly.
Here we have two stretching techniques believed to be effective and efficient methods to include in your exercise program.
Dynamic stretches as defined by dictionary.com states it is "a type of sport fitness routine in which momentum and active muscular effort are use to stretch and the end point is not held." What this statement says is you are actively stretching your muscles while moving or exercising.
Examples of this type of stretch are skips, butt kicks, or even high knees. These are more modern and functional stretches and exercises. Dynamic stretching helps increase blood flow, body temperature, and heart rate for preparing your body for exercise with gradual and controlled movement.
For dynamic stretches to be most beneficial, it should be specific to your participating sport. Based on the research article 'Effects of dynamic and static stretching with general and activity specific warm-up protocols' it was found that performance was enhanced with sport specific warm-up stretches. General stretches showed less performance enhancement.
Static stretching can be defined as "passive stretching where a stretch is held in a specific location for a certain time". These are the more traditional stretches that we all are accustomed to knowing. This includes exercises like quad stretch, hamstring stretch, modified hurdler stretch, etc.
A static stretch before exercise can be detrimental on performance, but research has also shown that static stretching leads to increased flexibility. It is suggested that these stretching exercises would be more beneficial to complete after exercise.
Short time frame
Stretching does not take long to do and can be included as part of your workout. Research has suggested that dynamic stretches can take as little as 10 minutes to see improvements in performance. Just as well, static stretching can be quick and simple for your post exercise.
Overrated or underused?
Through research we see that stretching is beneficial if done correctly. It seems to be underutilized by the novice athlete and fitness enthusiast, but is part of the professional athletes exercise routine.
What does that suggest to you? That there is good reason to participate in these proper stretches. By doing proper stretching you can enhance your performance and give yourself that extra boost toward a personal record or goal.