The Truth About Static Stretching

If you’ve spent much time working out, you’re bound to hear some discussion on static stretching. Just what is static stretching? First, let me identify why you stretch. You need to get your muscles ready for vigorous activity by getting the blood flowing to the extremities. Trainers often use two types of exercises to do that. One is static stretching and the other is dynamic stretching or active warm-ups. Static stretching is becoming out of favor for a number of reasons.

Static stretching before performing may date you.

Most of us remember the PE classes where we sat on you bottoms with legs outstretched and reached for our toes. That’s a static stretch. It helps release the muscles and make them more flexible, so you don’t have as much potential for strains or pulls. Dynamic stretching is different. Dynamic stretching is an attempt to mirror the types of activities you’re about to do and moves your body will make, but in a controlled way. It works to warm up the body for constant flowing use, unlike static stretches, can be personalized for the activity and muscle groups used, aids with coordination and is a time for mental preparation.

New studies show that static stretching may actually damage muscle tissues.

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that doing static stretching before doing squats actually impeded performances by reducing stability and strength in the lower body. Various other studies showed the same thing. In fact, one mega study concluded that avoiding static stretching before a workout is important because it can hamper explosive performance, impede strength and power. So if you don’t do static stretching before a workout, what do you do? Going in cold is not an option.

Muscle tightness occurs because of muscle weakness.

When you have a muscle or group of muscles that aren’t ready for the challenge, other muscles compensate and work harder to complete the task. If all your muscles are performing at peak, the problem with injury is far less. As long as there’s no injury or short muscles, range of motion should be unlimited. The stretching doesn’t elongate the muscles, but helps to release the tension that keeps them contracted. Dynamic stretching helps warms the whole body by boosting joint flexibility, increasing elasticity and increasing body temperature.

  • Holding static stretches for less than 30 seconds does not have the same effect as holding the position longer. It does no harm.
  • Use dynamic stretches like squats, calf-raises and knee hugs to move the body like you’d move it when you’re working out.
  • Warming up first with a ten minute aerobic workout before doing dynamic stretches is important.
  • Static stretches can prove beneficial after the workout. They help with muscle relaxation, while decreasing muscle tension.

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