One of the biggest mistakes people beginning their fitness journeys make is skipping warm-ups before a workout. While warm-ups don’t particularly seem like a major part of working out, they are vital to improving your performance, as well as keeping you safe from injury. The main goal of warm-ups is to get your body ready for physical activity. Regardless if you are preparing for a sporting event, weightlifting, or performing an aerobic exercise, warming up should be an essential part of your fitness routine. One of the more obvious and well-known warm-ups is stretching.
You have more than likely stretched in some form many times throughout life. However, as time has passed, and we continue to learn more about our bodies, the type of stretching done has become a topic of discussion. We have been told that stretching improves our range of motion and flexibility, elongates muscles, and reduces the risk of injury. However, many in the fitness community have begun to debate the best stretching methods.
These fitness experts have begun to question the effectiveness of certain stretching methods. Static stretching is the form of stretching most people are aware of, but many in the fitness community believe this type of stretching may reduce your performance. They have begun to recommend dynamic stretching as a more effective alternative. But this begs the questions, which method is better?
Fitness Nation wants to ensure that you effectively and safely continue down your fitness journey, which includes effectively stretching. Today we are going to discuss the differences between static and dynamic stretching.
What is Static Stretching?
Static stretching is arguably the most well-known stretching method out there. Chances are you probably did these stretches in P.E. classes in school. They involved gradually extending a muscle and holding it anywhere between 15 to 30 seconds. You’d repeat this stretch two to four times, or until you equal 60 seconds.
The goal of these stretches is to release tension in your muscles, increasing their flexibility with the hopes of reducing the risk of pulls or strains. There are several static stretches you can do on your own, such as the hamstring stretch that involves reaching your toes while sitting on the floor or standing straight up, keeping your legs straight the entire time.
What is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretching has many of the same goals as static stretching. It aims to boost your range of motion and flexibility while preparing your body for physical activity. However, how it goes about doing this is very different than its counterpart. A key component of static stretching is holding a stretch for an extended period. That’s not the case for dynamic stretching.
The goal of dynamic stretching is to get the body moving. These stretches involve getting the entire body involved in the exercise. While static stretching is known as passive stretching, dynamic stretching is considered active stretching. It involves movement, taking the joints and muscles through a full range of motion. There are plenty of dynamic stretches to get you prepared for your work out.
How Do They Impact Your Workouts
While the consensus used to be that static stretches were the best before engaging in physical activity, that perception has shifted. Research has shown that static stretching before an exercise has proven to negatively impact performance and reduce muscle strength. Even though these stretches do improve your flexibility and range of motion, they can significantly impact how well you perform in a given exercise.
However, static stretching has also proven to provide you with plenty of recovery benefits after your workout or activity is complete. These stretches lengthen your muscles back out after a workout, which relieves tension and relaxes your body. A 2018 study also found that stretching also improves your blood flow. This improved circulation helps your muscles recover better and faster.
Dynamic stretching improves flexibility and range of motion, just like static stretching does. However, it may also boost performance, as well. A 2014 review of 31 published studies found that active warm-ups, such as dynamic stretching, could boost your power and strength in the following activity. Additionally, more research has found that dynamic stretching can improve your muscle power and overall performance.
This type of stretching has also been shown to reduce the risk of injuries. A 2011 study by scientists at Northwestern University of 1,500 athletes found that a combination of dynamic stretching, plyometrics, and other exercises resulted in a 65% decrease in gradual-onset injuries.
Dynamic stretches aren’t necessarily great for cooldowns, though. As the name suggests, the purpose of cooldowns is to bring down your core body temperature. Dynamic stretches increase this temperature.
When to Stretch
As you can see, neither static nor dynamic stretching is inherently better than the other. Each has its own benefits and flaws. Instead of asking yourself which method of stretching you should utilize, ask when you should be doing each stretch. Both should be a vital part of your workout routine. After all, while one gets your body ready for physical activity, the other helps your body recover.
If you are warming up before an exercise or sporting event, you should focus on dynamic stretching. This will improve your flexibility and range of motion. It warms up your body and gets your body moving and ready to work. It’s also proven to reduce the risk of injury.
If you are ending your workout, you should prioritize static stretching. Not only does static stretching improve your flexibility and range of motion like dynamic stretching does, but it also boosts muscle recovery. It helps relieve stress and tension in your muscles, relaxing the body. By combining both methods, you put your body in a better position to perform at your highest level, while reducing the risk of injury.
Fitness Nation wants all of our members to get the most out of their workouts. While that means working hard, it also means working smarter. Stretching before and after exercises is a great way to protect your body from injury while improving your performance.