We have all been told to stretch before and after our workouts, but never really knew the true science behind it. Why is stretching really necessary, and what benefits does it have on our bodies? There are many different ways you can tell someone to stretch, and to be exact there are multiple different ways you can explore, most commonly known: Static, Dynamic, and Ballistic Stretching.
The first and most common type of stretching is called static stretching. I am sure you have heard of this term more than once in your lifetime. Static stretching is when the body is completely relaxed and at ease, and you elongate the muscle for about 30 seconds. This type of stretching is completely controlled, and meant to be done slowly. To see more static stretching exercises click here.
When To Static Stretch?
Static stretching is important to do after your workout because your muscles are already warm, and the ligaments and joints are much more elastic. That is not to say, you should not static stretch before you are warm but you will get more out of it when you are already warm. To maintain flexibility, and gain more flexibility this type of stretching is essential.
How Long To Hold A Static Stretch
Believe it or not, your age will determine how long you should be holding your static stretches.
- Under 40 years: 30 seconds per stretch, however younger individuals can hold for 15 seconds and still reap the benefits.
- Over 70: 60 seconds per stretch
Dynamic stretching is rather “dynamic” meaning it is done with motion. This type of stretching is involved and meant to include with precise and controlled motion to avoid injury. The stretches start in a neutral position and then add motion, finishing with a neutral position. Dynamic stretching is done by the swinging forward and back of arms and legs (gently), to improve your range of motion.
When to Incorporate Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretches are usually done before you workout, to ensure you warm up your muscles in a controlled way before going into your workout. Some examples of dynamic stretches are here, and you can also use other channels such as YouTube to get more visuals on how to properly incorporate a dynamic stretching routine into your workout.
When you are practicing dynamic stretching, your body is constantly moving, even when you are stretching. Because you are preparing your muscles for the movements you are about to incorporate into your workout, your body will respond much more quickly during the exercise because your muscles have blood flowing through them, and are ready for those specific movements.
Ballistic stretching is also known as “active stretching.” Many times, ballistic stretching and dynamic stretching get confused for one another. Ballistic stretching indeed involves movement while stretching, but it incorporates a bouncing movement instead of a fluid movement. Always remember Ballistic= Bouncing. It is best known to increase range of motion, and incorporates small muscle spindles and triggers a quick stretch reflex.
The idea behind ballistic stretching is to incorporate bouncing and quick bursts to muscles that are colder, so that they may warm up to be ready for a similar movement.
When To Incorporate Ballistic Stretching
Similar to dynamic stretching, you will use ballistic stretches before you workout to get your muscles ready for the activity ahead. Ballistic stretching is especially important for healthy tendons and ligaments. If you are jumping, the tendons will have to shorten and then quickly elongate with the muscle, which explains why ballistic stretches can help prevent injury. Ballistic stretching also works wonders with tight hamstrings, and a slight bounce in the bent over position will increase flexibility more quickly than if you were to stretch your hamstrings with static movements. To see some examples of ballistic stretches click here.
You may receive a lot of different advice about stretching, but take to heart that there are many different forms, which call for different activities and purposes. Stretching can be uncomfortable at times, but it should never be painful. If you are stretching and feel sharp pains, stop immediately and try to ease into a stretch versus force one. When stretching you should remember the goals are to attain flexibility, and increase your range of motion to prevent injury.
In this article we only covered a small portion of the types of stretching you can cover before and after a workout. To give you a high level overview of what other stretching terms and types are out there:
- Passive/Assertive Stretching: Similar to static stretching
- Active Stretching: Lighter stretching which involves no force from outside sources, and only uses force from the muscles themselves.
- PNF Stretching (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)
- Isometric Stretching: Focuses on stretched muscles, and is meant to be held for longer periods of time with added resistance from a partner.
- (AI) Active Isolated Stretching: The relaxing of a stretched muscle
- Resistance and Loaded Stretching: Contracting and lengthening the muscles at the same time.
Whatever stretches you choose incorporate into your routine, it is better than doing nothing! You stretch the muscles you want to keep in tiptop shape. Your overall health and wellbeing is directly tied to stretching and keeping your body moving in a fluid and smooth form. Have fun and don’t be afraid to use the internet as a guide to help you learn new stretches and their proper form.
- Static Stretches. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://www.stretching-exercises-guide.com/static-stretches.html
- Ballistic Stretching Explained. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/ballisticstretching.html
- Types of Stretching. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://people.bath.ac.uk/masrjb/Stretch/stretching_4.html#SEC30
- Stretching and Flexibility Defined. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://stretchcoach.com/articles/stretching/