Dynamic and Static Stretching
There has been a long standing debate when it comes to stretching. Some have tried to discredit or minimize the value of stretching, however, it is the position of this coach that proper stretching techniques are in fact beneficial to athletes, particularly when it comes to increasing flexibility and improving performance.
Part of the stretching debate lies in the argument of dynamic vs static stretching. What I have found to be most beneficial is to incorporate both dynamic and static stretching into your routine for best results. Personally, I try to employ more dynamic stretching prior to a workout or training session, while incorporating static stretches post-workout. In this post, we will take a brief look at each.
My personal belief is that, opposed to static stretching, dynamic movement warm ups (pre-workout) prepare working muscles more adequately for strenuous training, while minimizing the risk of injury. Why? Dynamic movement stretches are ideal because they prepare joints for movement, and muscles for optimal activation. By employing dynamic movement stretching, you can initiate movement of joints and muscles through repetitive motion, all while moving a particular body part farther with each repetition.
Let’s use the hips as an example. By reducing hip stiffness prior to your run or ride, your hip muscles will work more efficiently and economically during your workout, all while reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Here are some simple dynamic movement stretches for the hips that you can try before your next workout:
Inchworms – Start in a “push-up” position with your arms extended as if you are going to do a pushup. From this position, without moving your hands, walk your feet towards your hands. When you cant get your feet any closer to your hands, walk your hands back out in front of you to return to the pushup position and repeat the movement. If you need to, in between repetitions, lie on your stomach arch your back up in order to stretch the spine.
Leg Swings – for this movement, you can simply stand perpendicular to a wall (with your side to the wall). Simply take your outside leg and swing it back and forth, gradually increasing the height of each swing. Turn and repeat the exercise with the opposite leg.
Walking lunge – perform a deep lunge in order to stretch the hips. For an extra stretch, at the bottom of the lung, twist your torso away from the back leg.
Now let’s take a brief look at static stretching. As opposed to a dynamic movement stretch, static stretches are designed to hold a joint or muscle in a particular position in order to loosen or stretch the muscles. This type of stretch should not be difficult or overly challenging. Holding the stretch position for anywhere from 30-60 seconds will help to increase flexibility in the muscle tissue. However, keep in mind, that static stretch movements done prior to working out, may actually prevent the muscles from firing properly.
Quad Stretch – while standing, grab your rightfoot and raise it up towards your glute while pushing your hips forward in order to stretch the quad. Remember to pull your foot up slowly and do not yank it. Hold the stretched quad for 30-60 seconds.
Frog stretch – while standing with your feet about shoulder width apart, turn your toes outward, and squat down as far as you can, keeping your heels flat on the floor. While in the squatted position, use your elbows to press your knees outward.
Try incorporating these stretches in your pre and post workout routine. I think you’ll see increased performance and flexibility.
Brent Holderman is an ITCA certified triathlon coach, host of the Tri Experience podcast, owner of Rockit Sports Online, and an Ironman 70.3 triathlete.