By Lauren Orser, Athletic Therapist, Concussion North
Stretching is an important activity for everyone who moves a lot, wants to move better or would like to return to full, pain-free movement. The benefits of stretching are well known but there is some disagreement about what kind of stretching is best before, during and after physical activity.
There are now two main types of recommend stretching: (1) static, and (2) dynamic stretching. (Ballistic stretching is another form that is no longer recommended because the “bouncing” nature of this type of stretching increases the risk of injury).
During a static stretch you hold a position for 15-30 seconds to lengthen and release the tension in a given muscle. You are doing a static stretch when you do seated hamstring stretch or a standing quad stretch. A dynamic stretch is where you lengthen and release the tension and tightness in a muscle through movement with exercises like arm and leg circles, shoulder circles and side bends.
When you include stretching as part of your warm up, you reduce the stiffness in your muscles and increase your range of motion. According to research, static stretching is most beneficial for athletes requiring flexibility for their sports (i.e. gymnastics, dance). It should be noted, however, that research also shows that static stretching during a warm up can reduce a muscle’s strength, which may not be ideal for competition.
Dynamic stretching is better suited for athletes like basketball players or sprinters who need running and jumping performance during their sport. You can accomplish dynamic stretches by doing exercises like knee highs and butt kicks that stretch your muscles while you go through full range of motion required for your sport.
If you’d like to design a warm-up routine that includes that right type of stretches for your sport or favourite physical activity, get in touch. One of the Athletic Therapists at Concussion North would be happy to help!
Research Reference: “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation”, International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.