In the first article of this series on stretching we discussed some of the benefits of stretching, but how you stretch and the type of stretches you perform can change the kind of results you get from your stretch. Simply put, not all stretches are created equal!
You’re probably now thinking: “What do you mean?! I’m stretching the way I was always taught. It seems to work pretty well. . .” Yes, it does but let me explain…
Some stretches may weaken the muscles:
There are times when stretching in a specific way can be counter productive. For instance, many people believe that stretching before a workout can help prevent injury. And this is true, but only when the stretches performed stimulate the muscles in a way that mirrors the way the muscles will move during the workout. If you are doing a traditional held stretch for 20 seconds or more, you maybe weakening that muscle. And this weaker state lasts for two or more hours. When you want to inhibit a muscle in order to get another muscle to do the work this is a good strategy. However, in most cases, we don’t want to weaken our muscles before working out!
Still, stretching before a workout is a good idea, but what we want is a dynamic stretch, one in which we move through a full range of motion to warm and gently stretch. In this form of stretching we don’t hold anything, but repeat the movements numerous times to prepare for our activity. And we use momentum to create a rhythm to our movements that is almost like a dance. An example would be walking lunges or leg swings to warm the legs. Another example is side bending going side to side rather than holding on one side.
What are the benefits of dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching raises your body temperature, warming the tissues and preparing them for more vigorous activity. In fact, dynamic stretching can be a whole body warm up, and it is far more effective than a 10 or 15-minute jog on the treadmill. It increases blood flow, which brings more nutrients/energy to the muscles fibers to prepare for the work to follow. And it stretches the muscles increasing range of motion and pliability and decreasing the possibility of injury. Numerous studies have shown that dynamic stretching improves performance with more power and increased flexibility.
There are many videos on the internet showing how to use dynamic stretching. Check them out and begin using dynamic stretching for your most effective workouts!
At Asheville Therapeutic Massage stretching is an integral part of our work both on the table and in knowing which at home exercises to give in order to promote longer lasting positive effects. Check out our website to book a session, look at other blogs, or to simply find out more about the role massage can play in your healthy lifestyle!
Next week: After workout stretches, static or active isolated?