When preparing for any kind of exercise, whether it’s a cardio workout, strength training, or a team sport, it’s important to take some time to get your body warm and moving.
When you’ve had a busy day or you’re in a rush to get your workout done, it can be tempting to just jump straight into your session to maximise the time you’ve got – we’ve all been there before! But, when you skip your warm-up and go from 0-100, you’re setting yourself up for a less efficient workout and are putting your body at a greater risk of injury.
Moving through a few pre-workout stretches will not only mentally prepare you for the activity you’re about to complete, but will also provide you with the following benefits:
- Increased flexibility
- Lower risk of injury
- Increased blood flow and oxygen
- Improved performance
- Better range of motion
- Less muscle tension and pain
Wondering what the best form of stretching is – static or dynamic? Let’s dive into each stretching method:
What Is Static Stretching?
The term static stretching refers to any stretch that is performed without movement. Static stretching comprises several different techniques that slowly lengthen a muscle to a protracted position (until it starts becoming uncomfortable), which is then held for approx. 30 seconds. It is probably the most common type of stretching and is advised during the cool-down phase following an exercise session. Using static stretching as part of a regular routine can also have its own benefits, including;
- Boost the ROM of joints to reduce the risk of damage to tendons and muscles during exercise
- Alleviate tightness and firmness of muscle
- Promote blood flow in areas where muscles are being stretched
- Reduce muscle soreness after heavy exercise
- Correct any imbalances in posture to help decrease chronic back pain
What Is Dynamic Stretching?
With recent research questioning the effectiveness of static stretching when warming up, the concept of dynamic stretching has emerged as a preferred warm-up activity. Dynamic stretching, as the name implies, requires movement and muscular effort for the stretch to occur. Dynamic stretches are active movements of a muscle that bring forth a stretch but are not held in the end position and allow for movement.
This type of stretching doesn’t seem to elicit the performance reduction effects of static stretching and is therefore recommended for warm-ups. Dynamic stretches can be performed for a number of sets and repetitions, and usually over a pre-determined distance. 2 sets x 12–15 reps over 10–20m is recommended.
Is Static or Dynamic Stretching Better for Flexibility?
When it comes to increasing flexibility, research has shown that static stretches can be more effective than dynamic stretches.
A 2012 study on the effects of dynamic and static stretching found that when static stretching was implemented within the testing conditions, sit and reach scores exceeded scores attained by conditions using dynamic stretching.
As static stretching elongates specific muscle groups, it is the best form of stretching for improving flexibility and mobility.
Top 5 Static Stretches
- Lie supine
- Lift one leg
- Interlock fingers behind the knee
- Keeping the leg straight, pull it towards the chest
- Keep the head and other leg on the ground
Kneeling Hip Flexor
- Kneel on the ground with one foot in front of the other
- Push pelvis and body weight towards the front knee
- Ensure the pelvis stays facing forwards
- Lean further forwards for a deeper stretch
- Lift the arm on the same side of the body as the back leg up towards the ceiling to increase the stretch
- In a standing position, use one hand to grasp the foot on the same side
- Pull the foot up towards the buttocks
- Aim to keep the knees together
- Push the hips forward to accentuate the stretch
- Sit on the ground
- Place the soles of the feet together
- Grasp the feet with both hands
- Lean forward, keeping a neutral spine
- Lie supine
- Place one foot on the opposite knee to form a ‘Figure 4’
- Grasp the back of the knee, and pull the leg towards the chest
Top 5 Dynamic Stretches
Hip Flexion/Extension & Hip Abduction/Adduction (Leg Swings)
- Stand with feet slightly apart, toes forward, and hands on hips (or one hand on a wall/chair for support)
- Swing the leg backwards, bending the knee
- Swing the leg forwards, keeping the knee straight
- Repeat on both legs
- Then, swing the leg across and behind the body
- Repeat on both legs
Lunge with Rotation
- Step into a lunge, and hold arms out in front of the body at chest height
- Rotate the body to one side
- Face forwards again before pushing off of the front foot to return to the starting position
- Lunge and rotate the other way
Squat with Rotation
- Lower body into a deep squatting position
- Open up the chest by lifting arm overhead in an arc formation
- Return the arm to the starting position
- Repeat with the other arm
- Start in a push-up position, and slowly walk the feet to the hands
- Once tension is felt in the hamstrings, walk the hands back out to the push-up position
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
- Lift the knee, and push the leg backwards
- Keep the front leg soft, and flex the trunk, maintaining a neutral spine position
- Bring the leg back into a standing position
- Repeat with the other leg
When it comes to static vs. dynamic stretching, it’s hard to say that one is better than the other.
Each has its own benefits and flaws and the main factor that should be considered when choosing which method to use is when are you performing these stretches – there’s a time and a place for both! While one gets your body ready for physical activity, the other helps your body recover.
If you are warming up before exercising, you should focus on dynamic stretching. This will improve your flexibility and range of motion. It warms up your body and gets your body moving and ready to work. It’s also proven to reduce the risk of injury.
If you are ending your workout, you should prioritise static stretching. Not only does static stretching improve your flexibility and range of motion like dynamic stretching does, but it also boosts muscle recovery. It helps relieve stress and tension in your muscles, relaxing the body.
By combining both methods, you put your body in a better position to perform at your highest level, while reducing the risk of injury.