23 Nov Stretching Part 2: here’s what we recommend
Hey there, Daniela here.
Last time we wrote to you with some great tips on static stretching (which you can read here) and we had a few people asking if we could clarify stretching recommendations overall. So here we go…
Different types of stretches achieve different things. So the first thing is that you need to become clear on what you’re trying to achieve. Let’s summarise again from our previous post, then we’ll dive into our recommendations.
Summary of different types of stretches
Static – this is your classic stretch most people think of. For example, if you bend over to touch your toes and hold the tension you feel in your hamstrings, you’re performing a static stretch.
Passive – this is performed when a partner moves your body into a stretch and proceeds to hold the tension while you’re completely relaxed.
Dynamic – this is a controlled movement into stiffness, actively moving within and gently towards the edges of your range of motion without holding or forcing it. While it does help to improve flexibility a little bit, its main goal is to prepare and improve your body’s ability to move in multiple directions safely. Think about performing a deep bodyweight squat, lunge, leg or arm swings. In fact, the sun salute sequence in yoga is in fact a pretty awesome dynamic stretch routine – just keep it gentle and flowing.
Ballistic – this involves using your body’s momentum to bounce in and out of stiffness. It’s not recommended by many experts for the fear of potential injury. Think of going into a hamstring stretch and then bouncing and pushing to get deeper into the stretch.
PNF – this is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and describes a combination of passive stretching followed by different types of muscular contractions. During the common ‘contract-relax’ PNF stretch, a partner pushes you into a short duration stretch followed by a brief 5-10 second contraction of that stretched muscle. After relaxing, the partner then pushes the muscle further into another stretch.
So, what ARE our recommendations for stretching?
For a proper warm up before sport, you want to increase your body’s core temperature. Yes, it’s called warm up for a reason! Some star jumps or a little jog maybe. But many of the other warm up components will indeed achieve this as well. So start with some dynamic stretching such as leg swings.
Next are lower intensity but similar movements (called movement specific preparation). For instance, if you’re preparing to sprint, do some gentle jogging and then some faster runs. For heavy lifting, do some bodyweight and lower weight versions of the same lifts. Combine all this with some shorter duration (30-60 second hold) static stretching, and you’re good to go. Skip the static stretching if you’re preparing for some particularly explosive activity, like a sprint start. Don’t worry too much about the exact order. Just get the general concept that you want to wake up and warm up your tissues.
After the warm up, but before your actual workout, is also a great time to do some technical drills or generally focus on precise technique improvements because your muscles and nervous system are at peak levels and not yet fatigued. This type of warm up is awesome to reduce joint, muscle and tendon injuries.
On the other hand, if overcoming tightness and stiffness is your goal, nothing beats long duration static stretching. Anyone who has ever been to a yin yoga class is familiar with this type of stretching. Here, stretches are generally held for several minutes. We are BIG fans of this type of stretching as it helps to increase your range of motion and release tissue restrictions. Otherwise, this starts holding you back like a straight jacket over time. The focus here is definitely on holding the stretch because certain restrictive tissues in the body simply take time to actually change shape. So hold each stretch for at least one minute, three if you can. Don’t overdo the initial stretch or you’ll quickly regret it as the clock ticks on!
This is NOT the type of stretching you want to do before a workout as it can decrease power and strength for a while. After all, this is a (different) kind of workout for your body in itself. And just like for any other workout, your tissues need to be warm before you do this. So don’t do this first thing in the morning when you’re all stiff. Either do it AFTER a workout or – even better – at any other time of day after a little bit of warming up. Some gentle sun salutes work well as a preparation. Bt any type of dynamic movement routine will work.
And if all else fails and you find this way too complicated, just do a little dance! Everything gets better from dancing 😉 We’re always happy to go over specific advice for you in clinic. You can book an appointment with us here >>>