If you are reading this blog, the chances that you are already aware of the importance of stretches is strong. But how many of us actually dedicate a portion of our workout to stretching? When we stretch before working out, we are preparing our body for exercise and by disregarding it you are risking injury every time. By warming up and stretching the muscle fibres, our movement becomes easier and more fluid, it also enables the body to become more flexible and improves our posture. All of these elements are conducive to preventing an injury. A little known fact about stretching is that it increases the both the blood and nutrient supply within the body – this prevents soreness, or DOMS.
But which type of stretching should you be doing? This post will discuss the difference between static and dynamic stretching, when you should choose the different techniques and why for optimum impact.
Dynamic stretching in its simplest essence, is practising an active movement of the muscle. Dynamic stretches are not held in position for any length of time.
The idea behind dynamic stretching is that the body is comprised of many mechanisms that are required to be stimulated and activated. When stretches are combined with a physical motion, nerve signals are from the brain to the fibres and tissues that triggers them to prepare to work; the sequence that follows includes our core body temperature raising and the blood supply focused to that area.
The extra blood flow, increases the energy potential of the muscles. When coupled with the increased flexibility and range of motion within the muscle fibres and tissues, dynamic stretching can lead to increased power and flexibility during a workout.
There is much research to support this; The Department of Physical Therapy of Wichita State University were conducting research surrounding how dynamic, static or no stretching impacted the performance when it was practiced before participants took part in both standing and vertical long jumps. The finding reported that participants that had carried out dynamic stretching before completing a vertical long jump exhibited far superior performances compared to those who did static stretching and no stretching at all.
When to carry out: BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT
Examples of stretches:
Butt Kickers, High Knees, Arm Circles, Squat Movements, Lunge Movements
Static stretching is an exercise that is designed to elongate the fibres and tendons in a muscle, or group of muscles beyond its normal limits. The stretch itself it supposed to challenge the body, yet allowing it to remain comfortable, and the position should be performed in a controlled manner – slowly, without bouncing and is to be held between 10-30 seconds for maximum impact.
Performing static stretches following a workout session can gradually increase flexibility and can lessen the intensity of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) during a workout, a large volume of blood is pumped to the working muscles, delivering vital oxygen and nutrients. Once these elements have been delivered, the force of the muscle contraction pushes the blood back to the heart to be replenished. When we stop exercising, the blood stops being forced back to the heart, it stays in the muscles, now full of waste products like lactic acid which causes the swelling any pain that many of us have experienced – this is known as ‘blood pooling’.
Using static stretches during a cool down period after exercising, the blood is prevented from pooling and the waste products are effectively removed; the blood that is circulating can refuel the muscles and tissues that need repairing after a workout. A consistent and gentle static stretching regime can return the body back to its pre-exercised state, returning the heart rate to normal and reducing adrenaline levels. Focusing on deep breathing is particularly important during this time, to ensure you have sufficient stores of oxygen within the body.
When to carry out: AFTER YOUR WORKOUT
Examples of static stretches:
Quadriceps: Lay on your right side and pull the left heel to the glute, feeling the stretch along the front of the thigh. Repeat on the other leg.
Chest: Stand straight and with your arms behind your back, intertwine your fingers. Straighten out your arms and raise your chin towards the ceiling.
Other areas that should be stretched after your workout are the hamstrings, glutes, triceps and the core/spine.