One of the questions I'm often asked by my clients is whether dynamic stretching or static stretching is more effective. The problem is, there's no straightforward answer.Muscles that are flexible are less likely to sustain an injury from tension related problems. Static stretching can be an important part of your mobility-increasing routine, helping to extend your range of motion.
Dynamic stretching at a low resistance is best used for end of range engagement and improving blood flow to the muscles.
What is static stretching?
Static stretching involves moving a muscle to the threshold of its range and holding it, without pain, for between 20 and 45 seconds.It's important not to push the stretch beyond your perceived rate of tension as recent studies have shown that overstretching can reduce the blood flow (and the oxygen supply) to the muscles being stretched.
The length of time you hold each stretch will depend on whether you are trying to realign the muscle fibres following a workout, or whether you are using the stretch to enhance your mobility. If you are simply realigning muscle fibres, stretches should only last between 8 and 12 seconds.If the objective of your stretch is to improve your mobility, you'll need to hold stretches, without bouncing, for at least 30 seconds to have an impact. For optimal results, each stretch should be performed 2 or 3 times. To avoid injuring yourself, make sure your stretches are slow and controlled. Performing static stretches as part of your cool down can help you avoid injury, elongate your muscles and aid recovery, but performing static stretches before an activity can seriously inhibit your performance. Using static stretches in a warmup has been proven to reduce your muscle reaction times for up to 2 hours after stretching.
When to use static stretches
The best way to incorporate static stretches into your routines is by making them a part of your cool down.It's important to have warmed your muscles up with 5-10 minutes of activity before any static stretching. Using stretches at the end of your workout can help to disperse lactic acid and will also enable you to stretch out and elongate the muscles.
What is dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching takes more coordination than static stretching. General opinion seems to be shifting towards recognising the benefits of dynamic stretching for improving your range of motion and mobility, both for sports and daily activities.Dynamic stretching involves performing a comfortable movement repeatedly, usually in reps of 10 or 12 in a smooth, controlled and deliberate manner. Completely different to the high-risk, jerky ballistic stretches so many of us were taught in PE classes.Dynamic stretching is often credited with improving speed, agility and acceleration, so it's definitely one to include in your routine.
Dynamic stretches can be done wrong if you have muscular tension, so use a mirror to help you maintain the correct alignment throughout your full range of motion. Never force your dynamic stretches beyond your natural range of motion as this heightens the risk of injury.
When to use dynamic stretching
It's best to use dynamic stretching as part of your warmup, gently extending your muscle to the limit of its range repeatedly before a workout to avoid injury during your more strenuous physical activities such as running, swimming or weightlifting.In short, neither dynamic stretching or static stretching is bad for you, providing they are used correctly within your workout and performed safely.I include static and dynamic stretches targeted at very specific muscle groups in my workout programmes which youto help you get on track to achieving the body you've always wanted.