The Importance of Static and Dynamic Stretching (And Which to Choose)May 04, 2021
Jim and Sarah had been working out at the same gym for years. Jim was always reluctant to do dynamic stretching before and after his workout. He thought he didn't need it because Jim was thinner and, therefore, less prone to injury (or so he thought).
One day, Jim threw his back out from one of his intense workouts on the bench press machine. This injury kept him from being able to go to the gym for 3 months! He got fat and no longer hung out with Sarah. She, ironically enough, became really ripped from her post-workout stretching routine! She could finally focus all of her attention on her holistic health without having to worry about Jim getting hurt by not doing a dynamic warm up or cool-down.
This story is fictional, but it paints a picture. Stretching is vital to keeping your body healthy for the long term.
So let's talk about stretching, shall we? This topic often comes up in the fitness world because it is difficult to find someone like Jim who doesn't believe they need to stretch. But where do you start? You may have heard of static and dynamic stretches, and you are wondering what the differences are. Which one should you be doing?
We will dive into the details of what those two types of stretch are and help you figure out which one would be best for your needs.
What is a dynamic stretch?
Dynamic stretching is the perfect way to get your blood flowing and your muscles functioning at their best. Dynamic stretches are great for increasing flexibility, strength building, coordination of muscle groups in various movements. It also helps reduce stress! Mind-body practices such as yoga or tai chi are great examples of dynamic stretching.
A dynamic stretch is also great when used to improve performance by improving circulation and maintaining muscle elasticity. With this type of stretch, you maximize your flexibility and reduce the risk of injury when performing other exercises.
Word of caution with Dynamic Stretching:
Not all types of dynamic stretches are appropriate for everyone. For instance, some people with back problems may find it difficult to perform a crouching stretch. Know your limitations!
Stretching is used to help prevent injuries. However, the important thing with this type of stretching is that you start off slow and go into each stretch slowly rather than rushing it. Don't push it if you feel any pain or resistance. Stretching should never be painful, and it is still possible to suffer an injury from dynamic stretching.
Six Popular Dynamic Stretches
Many different types of stretches are dynamic. A few of the most popular are...
Lunge with a Twist
Stand with your feet about two to three feet apart. Take a step forward with one foot and bend the other leg's knee so that you are in an inverted V position, but keep both knees soft. Twist toward the front leg as far as is comfortable before returning to standing upright again. Repeat on the opposite side after switching legs.
Knee to Chest
Lie on your back and bend one knee so that the foot is flat on the ground. Lengthen from your hip to reach the lifted leg until you feel a stretch in your groin/adductor area, then return to the starting position. Repeat with the other side.
Stand with your feet about two to three feet apart, toes pointing forward. Step one foot back and bend both knees so that you are in a squat position. Rise up from the squat until you return to standing upright again before repeating on the opposite side. Keep back straight at all times throughout the movement; do not arch or round it.
Stand on your right leg with the left foot off of the ground. Transfer weight to the ball of the left foot and kick it up so that you are balancing only on your toes. Bring back down, then repeat using the opposite side (left).
Hip Stretch With A Twist
Stand with your feet a few inches apart, your toes pointing forward. Move one foot back and bend the front knee until you feel the hips' tension (on both sides). Have your arms waist-high out to each side of your body. Rotate from left to right as if trying to touch opposite hands together on each reach.
Do a push-up, and then when you are in the up position, turn your torso so that one arm is lined up with the other—alternate sides after each rep.
What is a Static Stretch?
A static stretch is a type of exercise that involves holding one's muscles (typically 30 to 60 seconds) in an extended position for elongation or relaxation. It has been commonly used to warm up before an activity, but some argue it's best done after the workout or sports session.
The most common practice for static stretching is in the form of yoga. Yoga has been around for thousands of years and is the most popular form of static stretching. The benefits are it increases flexibility, promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and eases back pain.
Word of caution with Static Stretching:
Static stretches can be difficult and often result in strain. It is crucial to make sure you don't push yourself too hard or stretch a joint beyond its limits when performing these poses.
Six Popular Static Stretches
Many different types of stretches are static. A few of the most popular are...
The Cat and Cow pose:
This stretch can be done seated on the floor or while lying down. This stretch aims to work with the spine, ribs, and neck muscles for increased flexibility and aiding digestion by promoting movement in the stomach area.
Standing Forward Bend:
Standing forward bend, also known as Uttanasana, stretches the back and also helps to open up your chest.
The Seated Forward Bend:
This stretch is done while seated on a chair for increased comfort. The purpose of this stretch is to release tension in the lower back, hamstrings, and hips. It is also suitable for calming nerves that have been stimulated by overworking a muscle in the area.
This stretch is done while on your hands and knees with feet hip-distance apart, then dropping to your child's pose, which is resting chest down between the thighs for increased comfort. The purpose of this stretch is to help calm nerves and release tension in many of the same areas as the standing forward bend.
This stretch is done on your hands and knees with feet hip-distance apart, then lifting your chest up to look like a cobra by pressing firmly into the palms of hands and toes for increased comfort. This pose aims to increase circulation in the spine, shoulders, neck, and chest.
This pose is done from a standing position with feet between hip to shoulder-width apart, then stepping back one foot behind the other to stretch muscles of hips, thighs, and ankles while bending forward at the waist so that hands touch ground. The purpose of this pose is to increase blood flow through these muscle groups.
So which should you do, static or dynamic stretches?
This is the question that many people are asking themselves. Both static and dynamic stretches are helpful; however, it depends on your fitness level and what you are trying to accomplish with your stretching routine.
Static stretches are best for beginners, older people, and those who have just completed an activity that caused them to be sore.
Dynamic stretching is suitable for people who will use the dynamic warm up before a more physically demanding activity. This is because dynamic stretches are meant to loosen a muscle up by increasing its range of motion and circulation.
Try both of them out for your next workout. Do a dynamic stretch warm up before your activity, and then a static stretch cool down afterward. Always listen to your body, and don't overdo it to prevent injury!
Let us know in the comments which type of stretch you prefer for your workouts!
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