Everyone can benefit from stretching exercises. Stretching is an important part of physical fitness. Without stretching our muscles, joints become stiff and increase risk of injury. Before you begin stretching, it is important to know the difference between the two main types of stretches: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches are great as warm ups prior to exercise. Static stretches are good for gaining more flexibility after the muscles have been properly warmed up.
Dynamic stretching entails significant motion but not necessarily deep stretches. They are performed repeatedly so the stretch can be intensified with each motion. An example of a dynamic hamstring stretch would be high kicks. High kicks help warm up the hamstrings and improve range of motion. You can do them, alternating, as you walk. They can also be done stationary while focusing on one side at a time.
If starting with your right leg, extend your left arm straight out. Kick your leg up while keeping your leg and hand straight so that your toes hit your palm. Try to progressively kick higher but complete this exercise while staying under control.
Static stretches are deep sustained stretches which entail one motion held for more than 30 seconds. An example of a static hamstring stretch would be a seated forward fold. Holding this stretch between 30 and 90 seconds would be ideal.
Start seated with both legs straight out from your hips. Sit up tall, try to keep both legs straight or only slightly bent, keeping your spine flat, hinge from your hips and try to bring your chest closer to your thighs. Breathe slow and deeply while holding the stretch for 30 to 90 seconds.
Other Things to Consider…..
When to Stretch
It’s important to take into consideration the type of stretching you do before and after an activity. Static stretching before vigorous activity can reduce your strength and power. It’s best to perform static stretches after an activity, when your muscles are still warm. A post-activity static stretch helps reduce muscle tension and soreness by elongating the muscle and increasing blood circulation. Dynamic stretches are most effective before an activity or athletic event because they help prepare your body for the specific movements. They elevate your heart rate and increase body temperature, which allows your muscles to move more efficiently — and dynamic stretches wake up your nervous system, which gets your brain talking to your muscles.
- Don’t do static stretches on cold muscles
- Avoid quick, bouncing or jerking movements during static stretches to prevent tears and pulls
- Stretch at least 2 times per week
- Stretch everyday is you have lost flexibility or range of motion in your joints
- Never stretch to the point of feeling pain!
Licensed Massage Therapist, HealthFit Gym