Dynamic vs Static Stretching
Ever wonder when to stretch and what kind of stretching to do?
Let's look at the stretching we can do in our warm-ups and cool downs: static or dynamic stretching.
Static stretching is our most familiar form of stretching, and looks like getting into a stretch, like touching your toes, and holding it for 30-60 seconds. Dynamic stretching on the other hand involves moving a joint through its full range of motion, like doing big arm circles or leg swings.
Although it was a standby for many years, static stretching before a workout has more recently been shown to decrease power during training and increase the chance of injury. While static stretching on its own can increase range of motion, we don't recommend including it in your warm-up for the reasons stated above! Save it for the end of your day to wind down before bed, or for the cool down after a workout.
Dynamic stretching, however, can be a great addition to your warm-up routine, as it can help prevent acute injuries during your workout, and generally prepares your body for the movements you'll be doing in the workout. For example, if you plan to do goblet squats in your workout, you might include leg swings, glute bridges, and bodyweight squats in your warm-up to prep your legs for work!
Now let’s look at two ways of engaging the muscles in stretches: active and passive stretching.
Passive stretching is stretching by using a prop like gravity or a wall without muscular engagement. It provides a neurological release of tension (you’ll feel like you’re getting a “good stretch”) but doesn’t do as much to alter the shape of the muscles or increase mobility. Passive stretching often means hanging out in the connective tissue of your joints, especially for folks with hypermobility, and since tendons and ligaments don’t get as much blood flow as muscles we don’t really want to stretch them.
Active stretching on the other hand is stretching by engaging muscles on one side of the body in order to lengthen opposing muscles. Think of when you do a biceps curl: the biceps muscle shortens on the front of the upper arm, and in response the triceps muscle on the back of the arm must lengthen. With active stretching we can learn where the boundary points are in our range of motion, and start to increase our mobility from there.
If you have any questions on specific stretches to do for your own practices, please sign up for a Fitness Training with one of our Trainers!