One of the most critical aspects of injury prevention is the maintenance of complete and non-restricted joint range of motion through stretching. Stretching not only improves flexibility, but also can reduce the risk of injury. The question of whether static or dynamic stretching is the most beneficial prior to exercise has been debated. Recent evidence has determined that dynamic stretching is most effective prior to exercise, while static stretching is most beneficial following activity. Dynamic stretches resemble the movements produced during activity, while static stretches allow a relaxation period for the muscles of the body to recover. So what is static and dynamic stretching?
Static stretches are utilized to increase the flexibility of a joint or multiple joints while
the body is at rest. During a static stretch, the muscle is placed at the maximal stretch, which is generally determined as the point at which a firm, yet bearable resistance is felt.
The position is then held for 10 to
20 seconds and repeated from 3 to 5 times. Static stretching can be as simple as the common hamstring stretch. While sitting on the floor with legs extended straight out in front of you, slowly lean forward to touch your fingers to your toes and hold this position. When performing the stretch do not bounce or rock, hold a controlled stretch the entire time. This is an example of static stretching. Resistance bands and stretch straps are two common pieces of equipment used by athletes to assist them in performing static stretches.
Dynamic stretching is a series of controlled movements with slight resistance which are intended to improve range of motion, or flexibility, as well as prepare the
muscles for a more intense activity. A dynamic stretch is generally repeated about 10 times per stretch. During the repetitions, the dynamic stretch is accelerated from small, slow movements to bigger and faster movements. Unless physically fit, it is recommended that dynamic stretching is slowly incorporated into a fitness routine to prevent soreness or injury. Walking lunges are an example of dynamic stretching in which a typical lunge is performed while walking forward for a designated distance. Other examples include arm circles and half squats. Dynamic stretches can also be performed using resistance bands and stretch straps.
While both static and dynamic stretching have been proven effective in increasing the range of motion of a joint, dynamic stretching can also prepare and ‘warm-up’ the muscles for further activity by mimicking physical activity patterns. Since sports and other activities are dynamic in nature, the best way to prepare for exercise is with dynamic stretching that incorporates full body stretching with your sports movement patterns. Static stretching should be utilized following activity to allow muscles and joints to increase flexibility and aid in the prevention of soreness. For those who are just beginning an exercise regimen, it is recommended that dynamic stretching is slowly incorporated into the warm up routine to prevent soreness or injury.