This month’s focus is dedicated to all the cyclists, runners, weekend warriors, and sports enthusiasts that endure the long hours of work to finally get to that point in their day that they can truly call theirs. The point of which the overabundance of sunshine, warmth, and fresh air is like a welcome mat to the endless landscapes of the great outdoors. I’m talking about when we are off the clock, and feeling the wind blow through our hair as we are racing along on our bicycle, or pushing for that last mile in preparation for the next big run. More specifically, we are going to focus on the preparation that is often misunderstood, or even overseen as a whole.
What is the difference between Static and Dynamic stretching?
We are talking about stretching. Specifically Static and Dynamic Stretching, and how they can be most effective when used with a pre-participation protocol. The parameters of the protocol require two things: warm up, and stretching. The warm-up is to increase internal body temperature, and stretching is to increase muscle and joint Range of Motion (ROM).
I’m sure some of you may be thinking, ‘stretching, warm ups, I haven’t cared before, why care now?’ Studies from the National Institute of Health (NIH), and sub-studies within the NIH states that participants that are actively involved with appropriate warm up and stretching activities have a greater chance of not sustaining musculoskeletal injures than those who don’t. There are no specific guidelines or definite evidence that proves that one stretch is better than another, but many hours and multiple studies have led us to a conclusion that although pre activity dynamic stretching can help reduce musculoskeletal injuries, but it cannot prevent overuse or some acute injuries.
Why should you utilize Dynamic Stretching?
According to the University of Virginia, dynamic stretching involves continuous movement throughout the exercise; which is considered more effective than static stretching in warming-up and increasing blood flow to the region. Dynamic stretching also promotes increased flexibility for multiple muscle groups at a time.
These exercises are most often used to prepare the body for physical exertion before an athletic performance. One theory from the University of Virginia suggests that stretching muscles by using movements similar to those that occur within their athletic competitions accustoms the body to those movements, and in return improves oxygen flow, strength, balance, and overall performance.
Although not fully guaranteed, Injuries during competitions have been reduced due to pre-performance dynamic stretching.
When should you utilize Static Stretching?
Static stretching is a type of stretching that we do when the body is at rest, like bending over to stretch your hamstrings, stretching your calf up against the wall, or standing there holding one leg to stretch our quad. The most valuable time would be as a cool down from your recent exercise. The Australian Institute of Sports suggests that static stretching could also be paired with a dynamic stretching routine before performance without the possibility of hindering your performance.
Another thing to think about when putting together a good stretching routine is the timing and duration. Despite the ridiculous diet and all the rigorous training you endured for weeks at a time, stretching and warm-up at the appropriate time(s) could be all that stands between you and that Personal Record (PR)!
Studies show that static stretching between 30-60 seconds is optimal, with a slight decrease in performance shown when holding a longer than 60 seconds. And, for your muscles, fast/slow twitch muscle fibers, and the rest of you body to receive maximum benefit of stretching, allow 5-10 minutes before the actual competition to perform a couple movement-specific static and dynamic stretches.
Stretching should not be put off until there is a sporting event, stretching should be done all the time! We put our bodies through countless hours of sitting, hunched over our desk hacking away at the computer, driving in our cars, cooped up in meetings, or taking the next flight out of Indy. Static stretching is good for this! Take some time out of your day to do 5-8 stretches, hold for 10 seconds, just to wake up the muscles, let them know you love them! You’ll appreciate it, I promise! But, the better flexibility we maintain, the better we’re going to feel, and the longer our bodies can last (in some situations).
We shouldn’t look that static or dynamic stretching as an East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry, “right way to stretch” or “the wrong way to stretch”, nor as a burden that takes up an extra ten minutes of our time. No, we should view stretching as a way for us to get in touch with our body, a way for us to physically prepare ourselves for the achievements we are about to achieve and the beatings we are about to give, and as a way to prevent injuries.
As health professionals, we practice and recommend stretching almost daily; it has become a routine for us, and we hope with all the work and research we provide to the public, that they will consider appropriate stretching as a part of their sports and personal lifestyle.