You’ve heard it a dozen times before: stretch before you work out to avoid injuries and limber up. Were you aware though, the kind of stretching you do, may be doing the opposite of ‘limbering’ you up. The body can be confusing. Somethings work—somethings just don’t. We’re here to simplify it for you.
(This is classic gym class. Think high knees and walking lunges. Basketball warm-ups like shuffle slides and arm circles.) Here’s when you should perform dynamic stretching:
- Before any athletic activity
- Before a gym workout
- Before running
- Before hiking
Dynamic stretching, increases blood flow. The nutrient rich flow of blood helps muscles work at peak performance. The increased blood flow and revved up central nervous system, reduces lactic acid build up and gets the body buzzing for activity.
The publication, Scientific American, says: Lactic acid happens when the body is low in oxygen rich blood. The resulting effect on the body is fatigue and painful cramps. Ever heard of delayed onset muscle soreness? It’s tied into the production of lactic acid.
Here’s a dynamic warm-up routine we suggest to get you started:
A good dynamic warmup can actually improve your performance with increased endurance:
“... This study indicated that the dynamic stretching for 1 set of 10 repetitions as quickly as possible acutely improved endurance running performance at an exercise intensity equivalent to 90% VO 2max (7).”
- The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3045-3052
(Think touching your toes or any stretch that you ‘hold’.) Here’s when you should perform static stretching:
- AFTER a workout
- Before bed
- Not before a workout, but regularly to increase mobility
Performing a static stretch routine before a workout will kill your performance. Relaxing your muscles, when they instead need increased blood flow to perform longer, can slow you down.
Static stretching actually calms your central nervous system, the opposite effect you want if you’re about hit a cycling class or the neighborhood boxing ring. You can find out more about the different kinds of stretching and their effects on the nervous system, from a practiced yogi, here.
You also don’t want to perform static stretching before your body has had a chance to warm up. If you have an evening routine like a gentle walk, the best time to stretch is right after that. It will help reduce the lactic acid build up and calm your body down.
So remember, dynamic stretching before a workout or athletic activity. Static stretching as part of your cool down routine.
Here's some static stretches to get you started:
The American college of sports medicine recommends that you hold static stretched for a time period of 15-30 seconds. Never hold a stretch if it hurts. Remember, breathe deeply while stretching.
Challenging your range of motion regularly will increase your flexibility—
...which is great if you’re planning on taking those edgy pole or twerking classes. Just don’t do static stretching before ‘an activity’ save it for the end of your spicy new workout class. Put together your own dynamic warm up routine to jumpstart your body for a successful and fun class.
We hope you enjoyed learning the differences between static and dynamic stretching and when to use them. Your performance will be that much better for it.
---Klarrisa Arafa, BCRX Content Writer