Stretching is an integral part of any workout regimen. You warm up to get your joints and muscles ready, and you cool down to rub out the kinks. Different stretches have different benefits. Focusing on the best stretches for you will give you the results you need to strengthen and heal your joints and muscles.
Active Stretching – In active stretching, the stretch of the muscle comes from contracting the opposing muscle. Active stretching is mostly isolated. Muscles are stretched and held on their own with no assistance from other muscle groups. An example would be a tricep stretch, where you bring your arm behind your back and stretch the muscle on it’s own as opposed to using your opposite hand to stretch the muscle out further. Think of yoga poses where muscle groups work independent. Stretches are usually held for 10 to 15 seconds. Active stretch are great for warm up but also build strength and burn calories on their own, as we’re well aware of the benefits of yoga.
Dynamic Stretching – Dynamic stretching is most similar to to performing body weight exercises. Dynamic stretching prepares your muscles for exerted forces by doing a set number of movements in slow controlled motions. They help increase power, endurance and stability. Although great for workouts, dynamic stretching is also one of the best stretches for pre-athletic events. For running, think prisoner squats, which prepare your quads for explosive sprinting. These stretches can mimic the movement of the muscle as you prepare to use it to it’s full capacity in the same range of motion.
Self-Myofascial Release – This type of stretch is best for location specific tension. Think about anytime you’ve ever had a “knot” in a muscle. Think about how relaxing it is to roll a ball under your foot, or squeeze a tension ball in your hand. These are all forms of myofascial release and are great ways to reduce tension in problem areas. Success in relieving tension is usually accompanied with the use of a foam roller because it is large and can hit larger muscle groups. The foam roller is usually placed on a fixed surface, i.e. floor or wall, and the target area is pressed firmly on the opposite end of the roller while you slowly roll the problem area for no less than 30 seconds. Specific parts of the muscle will feel more tender than others as you roll. Once you find a tender spot hold the roller underneath that spot until the tenderness goes away.
Check out our Foam Rolling: The Best Kept Secret article for more information and tips on foam rolling.
Static Stretching – Static stretching is the most common known form of stretching. Stretching a muscle to it’s further’s point and holding for no less than 30 seconds helps improve flexibility and joint mobility. Static stretching is something that should be used daily, whether working out or not. Everyday we walk, lift, squat in regular activities and having our body warmed up helps prevent unnecessary tension. Performing static stretching to start your day loosens your body for the regular wear and tear of everyday life. Static stretching before a workout to helps warm up the muscles you plan to utilize for that work out. Stretching after provides the necessary cool down for your muscles.
Sources: NASM, Shape