Stretching has been around as long as mankind, because it is one of the most natural movements that humans make. Instinctive stretching often appears in tandem with yawning. At some point (no one can say exactly when) people realized that if they stretched before they exercised, their body felt less tight and they could exercise more comfortably. For years, people thought that any stretch was a good stretch… but recently people have begun to debate dynamic stretching and static stretching. In a face-off between dynamic stretching and static stretching, who would win, giving you the best results?
What is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretching involves movements (such as wide arm circles) that more closely resemble what the body does during sports activities, but without the bouncing often involved in static stretching. Dynamic stretching is usually done at the beginning of an exercise program after a proper warm-up, while static stretching is usually performed after exercising. Dynamic stretches closely mimic movements made during exercise, so they’re usually used to prepare for athletic events.
What is Static Stretching?
Static stretching involves stretching while the body is at rest, by stretching to a point of tension and holding that stretch for a few seconds to a few minutes. One of the common errors in static stretching is bouncing in and out of the resistance felt at the end point of the stretch. This bouncing is a jerky motion that doesn’t allow the muscle fibers to truly lengthen and results in an increased risk of injury. Static stretches are most effectively used to improve flexibility and cool your body down after you exercise, and are therefore done when the body is standing still.
The real message is to learn how to correctly stretch for your activities. A session with a physiotherapist can help you identify key muscle groups to stretch and the proper technique to get the best stretch. A proper warm-up and cool-down stretch routine is crucial in preventing injuries.
-Lesley Cuddington, Registered Physiotherapist