If you’re involved in any type of athletic activity currently or have been at any point in your past, then you’re no stranger to stretching. Regardless of the sport, some form of stretching is almost always a part of the warm-up—and sometimes the cool-down—routines, which we’ve been told is necessary to improve performance and reduce the chances of getting injured. But what you may not realize is that the type of stretching you perform and when you do it can make a major difference in helping you avoid injuries.
Stretching has been around for eons, and it’s long been considered important to do before engaging in any form of physical activity. For a while, any type of stretching was thought to be beneficial, but eventually science caught up with the practice and cleared some things up. Over time, studies have been conducted to determine what type of stretching is better and when it should be performed. Although there is still some ongoing debate on this topic, in general most experts agree that of the two types of stretching, dynamic stretching is better before and static stretching better after activity.
Static vs. dynamic stretching to avoid injuries in Springfield
Static stretching is the more traditional type of stretching that you’re probably more familiar with. It consists of assuming a position, such as placing one arm across your chest, and then holding it in place for about 15-60 seconds. This type of stretch is meant to target specific muscles or muscle groups and stretch them to a point where you feel a stretch but not pain. These stretches lengthen the muscles, but don’t do much else.
It was once believed that static stretching before activity was effective for preventing injuries, but that has been overturned. Recent research has shown that static stretching can actually have a negative effect on performance, and instead, it should only be performed after activity. Doing static stretches like the hamstring stretch, calf stretch or shoulder stretch described above after physical activity has been shown to reduce muscle tension and soreness, improve the interaction between muscles and help to maintain good flexibility. This may help to prevent injuries during your next athletic performance.
Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching is an active form of stretches that consist of controlled movements that move through the entire range of motion. Dynamic stretching is not just taking a static stretch and adding some bouncing to it—as some people mistakenly do—but instead of holding a position, it consists of repeatedly bringing your muscles and joints through their full range of motion. These types of stretches are designed to mimic the actual movements the body will go through during athletic performance to prepare athletes. Their goal is to improve flexibility and performance, and reduce injury risk.
Since they are meant to prepare the body, dynamic stretches are most effective and should be performed before physical activity. Doing these types of stretches—which include walking lunges, high knee raises, arm circles and leg-overs—prior to exercise will increase blood flow, flexibility, heart rate and body temperature. Together, these changes will lead to a better overall athletic performance and a reduced risk for injuries.
There are some small exceptions to this recommendation, such as having a tight or injured area, which may require some static stretching before athletic activity. This is why we suggest speaking with your coach or athletic trainer, or coming to see us if you have any questions about static and dynamic stretching. We can help by offering some more examples of both types of stretches and helping you to perform them correctly in order to optimize your performance and avoid sports injuries. Contact ARS Hand & Physical
Therapy in Springfield, NJ at 973-379-7006 to schedule an appointment, or click here for more information on static and dynamic stretching