What's the Deal with Stretching?

Personal Training in South Spokane - Catalyst Fitness

Does stretching make you more flexible? I know the obvious answer to this question, based on what we’ve all been told about the merits of stretching, is, “Duh! Yes!” But it turns out that might not be the case. But it might be the case. At least a little. But not totally. Let’s delve into this some more.

Researchers now say stretching may not only prevent you from reaching your maximum strength during a workout, but it also could leave you more vulnerable to injury. There are generally two stretching techniques: dynamic stretching and static stretching. Dynamic stretching is ideally done before a workout and it involves a concise range of motion meant to mimic the movement we make during rigorous exercise. Static stretching involves extending your arms, legs or other body parts to the point of tension and holding that position for a period of time. Static stretching is usually best done at the end of a workout.

Let’s talk about dynamic stretching since you’ve been doing static stretching since PE class in grade school. Dynamic stretching shouldn't last more than 10 minutes. Keep in mind that just because the stretches involve movement doesn't mean it's supposed to fatigue your muscles. The goal of dynamic stretching is to gradually increase your heart rate and elevate your core temperature before you workout. You should break a sweat, but you shouldn't be breathing hard.

Begin with the following warm-up:

1. Start with jogging, running, or skipping rope. Jumping jacks, burpees, and mountain climbers are other alternatives to get your blood flowing.

2. Once your muscles are warm and you've achieved a light sweat, choose exercises that will warm-up all of your muscle groups. Trunk twists, arm circles, squats, pushups and lunges are a good place to start. Perform each exercise for 30 to 45 seconds.

After you've completed the warm-up, you can move into a few specific dynamic exercises. There are plenty of stretches to choose from, so depending on your activity, you can vary this routine. Here are a few dynamic stretches to get you started:

1. High knees: This exercise can be performed in a stationary position or moving forward. Start with a running motion, bringing the opposite arm and leg up at the same time. Gradually increase the speed and height of your legs, driving your knees toward your chest. Remember to match the speed of your arms with the speed of your legs. Start with three sets of 15 repetitions.

2. Lunge and twist: Start this exercise by lunging with your right leg. Keep your chest up and your back straight, engaging your core. As your lower your left knee to the ground, twist your upper body toward your right knee. Follow this movement with a twist to the left. Stand back up and repeat, alternating legs. Start with 10 repetitions on each leg.

3. Leg swings: This dynamic stretch can be performed side-to-side and front-to-back. For the front-to-back version, stabilize yourself along a wall or balance one arm out to the side. With your feet spread apart to your hip's width, lift your right leg. Swing your leg forward and backward in one movement. Slowly increase the height of the swing in each direction. Start with 10 to 15 repetitions before you switch to the opposite leg.

Begin the lateral version of the exercise by facing a wall or holding onto a short fence. Swing your right leg in front of your left knee. Bring your leg back in front of you and extend to the right, all in one movement without a pause. Be sure to maintain your balance and gradually increase the height of the swing in each direction. After 10 to 15 repetitions, repeat with the opposite leg.

So, the short form here is static stretching isn’t your best method to improve your functional muscle length. Dynamic stretching helps you prepare for anything athletics related from weights to wake boarding and all the things in between.  Ultimately a mix of both helps you increase your mobility and flexibility and make you nimble.


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