It has been standard procedure to stretch prior to a workout or sports practice session. We've all reached for our toes or engaged in a pose that stretched our hamstrings until it felt uncomfortable. This technique, known as static stretching, was thought to increase flexibility, lengthen muscles, improve performance and prevent injury.
But in present-day mindset, that approach has received mixed opinions. Some researchers say static stretching prior to a workout or practice will hinder performance, making you more vulnerable to injury.
Who would have thought something so simple would be controversial..
These researchers found that static stretching resulted in athletes being unable to jump as high, sprint as fast or move as powerfully as they did without stretching. They claimed static stretching causes the nervous system to tighten, not loosen, a muscle.
However, several other reviews suggest that static stretching may not be that bad after all. They concluded that "detrimental" effects of static stretching only arise when doing so for a long duration - meaning that you'll only see negative effects on your workout when you stretch for at least a minute or to the point of discomfort.
If you held the stretch for less than 30 seconds, they claim there will be no negative effects.
Hold up - there's another type of stretching?
But with the downsides associated with static stretching, alongside the possible risks of not warming up at all, there is a better way to prepare for a workout - dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching is stretching muscles through movement, rather than just extending them and holding that position for a period of time. It also works as a method of warm up as they tend to be like your workout, but at a much lower intensity.
Dynamic stretching is said to avoid some problems associated with static stretching, as this type of stretching more closely resembles the activities for which you're preparing yourself for through stretching.
In addition, it elevates your muscle compliance, core body temperature, nerve conduction speed, and enzymatic cycling (the energy source for cells functioning). It also stimulates the neuromuscular system, which is the communication between your brain and muscles.
Even though dynamic stretching is the more preferred way to go, researchers say it must be done in moderation and not be pushed to the point of discomfort.
Here are some dynamic stretching ideas:
- Slow jog for 30 secs, then drop to a walking pace for 10 secs. Repeat over 4 times.
- Side step to the left with your arms above your head for 10 steps. Do the same to the right, and then repeat over 3 times.
- Jump lunges of 10 on each leg. Repeat over 3 times.
- Brisk walk for 30 secs, then drop to a walking pace for 10 secs. Repeat over 4 times.
- March on the spot for 30 secs, then drop to a slower pace for 10 secs. Repeat over 4 times.