What Types of Stretches Are There?
We are going to focus on two types of stretching: Static and Dynamic. This section gives you information on static stretching, including what it is, what the benefits of it are and when the best time to do it is.
When people think about the concept of stretching, it’s often static stretching that comes to mind. Static stretching can be defined as passively stretching a muscle to the point of tension or mild discomfort. It’s stretching the muscle to its farthest point away from where it attaches for an extended period of time.
Performing static stretching consistently over time will improve your range of motion and mobility. To achieve initial gains, it’s recommended you initially commit to performing your stretch routine several times a week. After you have achieved some improvement, you may reduce the sessions or the durations to maintain your improvements. However, don’t end up reducing them so much that they fall out of your program altogether. Make sure you make stretching a part of your lifestyle so as to not revert and lose the gains you’ve made.
How long should I hold static stretches? The literature supports holding static stretches for twenty to thirty seconds maximum. The reason for this is because most of the stress relaxation occurs in the first fifteen to twenty seconds of the stretch.1 This means that after fifteen to twenty seconds, your muscle starts to relax, and you can provide less force to hold the stretch in the same position.
How hard should I push static stretches? Perform these static stretches slowly, and don’t go so far into them that it hurts. Start with a light stretch, and increase as you feel comfortable doing so. If the speed or the force of the stretch is too high, sensors in the muscles may respond by tightening up as a protective mechanism. Ease into the stretch until you feel some tension. If you feel any discomfort or pain, reset and start again. You may find that during the second or third repeat, you’ll be able to go farther into the stretch as your muscles loosen up.
When should I do static stretches?
Static stretching is great for improving flexibility and maintaining good movement abilities. However, you may have heard the advice not to stretch before hard workout sessions. The reason for this is that stretching for twenty to thirty seconds or longer causes a temporary reduction in strength and power generation in some of the fibers. Your muscle fibers have elastic properties to them. When they are stretched, and the stretch is held, this causes the muscle to temporarily lose some of its tension, much like if you would stretch and hold a rubber band. This is temporary and is not at all harmful. The elasticity comes back, and your muscles are on their way to have an increased ROM and more flexibility.
However, this means that doing static stretches before intense workouts involving maximal strength efforts, jumping, or sprinting, may affect what you can do during those activities. If you’re more of a novice when it comes to fitness, or flexibility is one of your priorities, don’t worry about this when performing static stretching. Just stretch, and do it consistently. Your workouts are not designed for power development, but for better movement and fitness abilities. The health benefits you will get from stretching far outweigh any temporary decrease of force capabilities.
If you are doing more advanced or intense workouts, though, this temporary decrease in elastic tension and force capabilities is something you might want to consider. Keep static stretches as part of your cooldown if you’re planning on doing a workout geared toward strength or power development, or plyometric and jump movements.
For most readers, if you were to add some static stretching before and/or during your workout, that would be perfectly OK. When it comes to general fitness and health, the benefits most people get from stretching outweigh any lag time that might result in a slight difference in power production.
A note to those who are hypermobile: If you are someone who is naturally flexible or even excessively flexible, stretching doesn’t really need to be a priority for you. It may feel good, and doing it for recovery or after long periods of inactivity is still a good thing. Studies have found that higher rates of injury can occur in those not flexible enough, as well as in those who are too flexible. In addition, joint stability and mobility are inversely related. If you or someone you are working with falls into this hypermobile category, my suggestion is to focus on developing stability and strength over flexibility.