Stretching has always been a part of any workout. Trainers always require their students to stretch because not doing so might lead to injuries like muscles being strained or torn.
Stretching is used before and after to maximize the muscle movement and to slowly ease the body to and from the workout. It is meant to lengthen the muscles so that you can reach your full range of motion. It is also a good way to warm up before your usual workout or any sport to wake up sleeping muscles and bones (and at most times, your brain too).
Two Types of Stretching
There are two main types of stretching – static and dynamic. Taken from its name, static stretching involves movements where you hold your position for at least 10 seconds while you slowly ease back to your starting position. The movements are more controlled. They are also relatively slower.
On the other hand, dynamic stretching refers to movements that are faster and more repetitive. You can say that the exercises in a dynamic stretch are less deep because they do not necessarily push you to your limit. However, they can also increase flexibility because these repetitive movements become easier as time passes that your body can do more each day.
Benefits of Static Stretching
Static stretching’s goal is to improve your flexibility. Trainers recommend that you hold a position for 15-30 seconds before going back to your starting position or doing it to the other side. Moreover, static stretching is better when you do this after a workout.
You might be wondering why it’s better to do static stretches after a workout when it’s supposed to increase flexibility. If you’re going to do a sport or a workout, shouldn’t it be better to be flexible already right at the beginning?
Although you want to be flexible at the beginning, the movements static stretches focus on are more beneficial at the end because it prevents your muscles from becoming sore and breaking. After a workout, your muscles will feel tired and worn out and the best way to release the exhaustion and the tension would be to increase blood flow. Increasing blood flow is one of the main benefits of static stretching apart from increased flexibility.
A few examples of static stretching are knee raise where you lift one knee towards your chest and holding the position for 15 seconds (10 if you begin wobbling). You can also arm raise and moving it to the side. This is a good exercise for your abdomen.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
If static stretching was meant to be done after the workout, dynamic stretching is done before. Sample dynamic stretches are arm circles, warrior lunges, walking lunges, knee jumps. All these movements should be done 20 times with 10 reps for each side.
When you do dynamic stretching, notice how your heart rate speeds up. This is the most noticeable thing you’ll feel when you do dynamic stretches as opposed to static stretches. This is also the main reason why this kind of exercise is better done before any workout or sport.
The main benefit of dynamic stretching is the increased heart rate which will help in warming up your muscles. These movements are meant to wake up your sleeping muscles and get some blood pumped on them. In this way, your body feels alive in time for your workout. Moreover, when your muscles are awake, they become less resistant to movement.
If you are doing a sport as a workout, then the best dynamic exercises should mimic the movements you will make in the sport. If your sport is tennis, then you should be able to warm up your arms, hips, and legs, because these muscles are the main muscles used in the sport.
A Simple Reminder When Stretching
What you need to remember when stretching whether it’s dynamic or static is that stretching shouldn’t be painful. Yes, it’s supposed to push you to the most flexible pose you can, but it shouldn’t reach a point where you feel pain. The best way to improve your movement is to just do these stretches regularly. Eventually, your body will get used to it that the hard stretches become easier through time.