Stretching is an important part of your workout. It keeps your muscles and joints flexible, prepares your body to exercise safely, and lowers the risk of injuries from exercise if done correctly.
Dynamic vs. Static Stretching Workout Tips
There are two main kinds of stretching: dynamic and static. Each type is used for a different purpose and at different points in the workout.
Dynamic stretching puts your muscles through their full range of motion and is best done before your workout to get your muscles warmed up and ready for to work. Popular dynamic stretches you can do include: leg swings, arm circles, and spiderman walks. Dynamic stretching gets the nervous system revved up and actually increases the temperature inside your muscles.
Static stretching holds the muscles in gentle tension for a few seconds and has the opposite effect of dynamic stretching in that it subdues or dulls the nervous system. The best time to do static stretching is mid-workout when you want to change the muscles that are dominating the exercise or after a workout to cool down. Some gyms now offer entire classes built around stretching workouts that have become popular for those looking to increase flexibility or who want a gentler, more calming workout. To find classes that work for you, sign up for a trial pass.
Pros and Cons of Dynamic Stretching
Injury is always a possibility with dynamic stretching. This is because you are taking your muscles from zero to sixty and they may not be ready. You may also risk injury if you do a dynamic stretch incorrectly. Working with a certified personal trainer will ensure that you do dynamic stretching correctly and minimize injury risk.
With proper technique, dynamic stretching does warm up and energize your muscles, which in turn leads to better workout performance overall.
Pros and Cons of Static Stretching
Static stretching is easy to do and helps increase your flexibility, but static stretching can make your muscles too calm if you do it before your workout. You can also overdo a static stretch and pull the muscle or make it sore for a few days.
Research shows that muscle strength decreases for an hour after static stretching, and that the intensity of explosive movement, the type of movement typically needed when playing sports, may also be decreased. This means that static stretching can hamper athletic performance and should definitely be avoided before a competition or game.
Static stretching does not have great benefit for serious athletes, who are already well conditioned. But a certified personal trainer can help beginners and more recreational athletes to increase their flexibility and cool down after a workout, making static stretching a good choice for beginners or those suffering from mobility issues.
Stretching may seem like an optional part of your workout. It does not burn as many calories as 5 more minutes of cardio would, and it may feel like it slows you down or drags out your workout. But spending some time with a trainer learning how to stretch and the best times to stretch will keep you healthier and enhance your workouts in positive ways, and may even keep you in the gym more consistently by helping you avoid injuries.
Sign up for a personal trainer session to see if stretching can help improve your workouts.