Dynamic versus Static Stretching
Dynamic stretching entails using active movement to prepare for a workout; you would put your body through various ranges of motion. Within dynamic stretching there are two subcategories: active and ballistic. Active dynamic stretching involves the movement of a limb through its full range of motion while repeating the motion several times. Ballistic stretching includes bouncing or rapid movement of limbs. Ballistic stretching increases the chance of injury, therefore, is no longer recommended. Dynamic stretching includes, but is far from limited to, head rolls, arm circles, alternating toe touches, and trunk twists. Static stretching is a sustained stretch where the joint or muscle is held in place for a specified amount of time. Think of when you were in P.E. class and the teacher would tell you to touch your toes for 10 seconds or do a standing quad stretch for 30 seconds on each side.
While both dynamic and static stretching are important, they both play a different role; there is a time and a place for each of them. Dynamic stretching should be done prior to working out; this allows the muscles to get loose and fire off. By doing so, you are increasing the blood and oxygen flow to your ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Starting with dynamic stretching will improve your power, agility, and reaction time. When a UFC fighter is in the locker room getting ready for a fight, do you see them standing there holding a static stretch? No! You see them going through the motions of throwing punches, kicks, evading punches, and working on their footwork. They’re getting ready to go to battle against someone that is trying to take their head off or rip their arm off so a dynamic stretching warm-up is important as to not feel complacent and to get the muscles primed to give solid effort. When you’re about to lift weights or run, think of yourself as a UFC fighter getting ready to go to battle with the weights or treadmill.
There have been numerous studies done on the benefits of dynamic stretching with the majority of them concluding the same thing. This study in particular was focused on the hamstring, but similar results have been concluded by a wide variety of doctors and athletic trainers. “Dynamic stretching is synonymous with functional, sport-specific stretching and this research has demonstrated that dynamic stretching improves both static and dynamic hamstring flexibility. Static stretching has no impact on dynamic flexibility and should not be used in the warm-up; however, static stretches may be useful in the cooling down period of training for long term gains in flexibility”.
Now when and why should we use static stretching? It is probably best to do your static stretching at the end of your workout. Static stretches are intended to elongate a particular muscle group; they make you more flexible. By incorporating static stretches at the end of your workout, you have the ability to bring your body back to rest after having put the muscles under the stress of working out. This may not come as a surprise, but if you want to increase your range of motion, use static stretching at the end of your workouts.