Stretching Methods and Techniques
Stretching is an important part of any physical activity Whether it is running, lifting, or sports-related, stretching has been proven to help prevent injuries. Surprisingly the topic of stretching can be somewhat controversial depending on what expert you consult.
Should you stretch, before, during or after? Will stretching improve performance? These are questions that come up and have varying answers.
Stretching has actually been proven to improve performance if done correctly. The Journal of strength and conditioning Research found that one to two sets of dynamic stretching had a significant Improvement on Sprinter performance. The research also found the too much stretching in fact hindered performance. This tells us that stretching can help or hurt your performance depending on how you do it.
Active dynamic stretching
Dynamic stretching is a little bit different than your normal stretching where are you are pausing in a static movement. Instead active Dynamic stretching is a way to warm up and prepare your body for the activity you’re about to do by taking your body through a range of motions that will both warm up and stretch your muscle groups preparing you for the activity.
Active Dynamic stretching should be your go-to method of warming up and stretching before an activity or exercise. the proper way to do this is with a combination of a light aerobic warm-up and a series of dynamic warm up exercises. this process should take around 10 minutes.
The first step is to complete a warm-up with light aerobic activity. Remember that this is a light warm up to raise your temperature get the blood flowing, increase elasticity in the muscles, and increase your heart rate up. This is not high intensity training and should not be done at an intense level. If you are running out of breath then you are going to hard. Your warm-up should be around 5 minutes but could last longer up to 10 minutes if needed.
At this point your blood flowing your body temperature is warmer and your muscles are now ready to be used, moved, and stretched through dynamic exercise. Dynamic exercises include lunges, push-ups, leg swings, inch worms, leg crossovers and many others. Find Our complete guide to Dynamic stretching exercises here.
This is probably what you learned in gym class where you would sit or stand in place and stretch until you feel straining or pulling in a specific muscle group. At this time you will hold the straining movement or stretch anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute and repeat on both sides. This type of stretching is actually good for developing flexibility if done at the right time.
Static Stretching has a time and a place, but evidence has proven it is not before you do your activity. Another study found that static stretching actually decreases vertical jumps when done before the activity. The best time to use static stretching is when you are cooling down after your workout this will help relieve tension caused in the muscle by exercise and it will help blood flow, increase flexibility, loose the tight muscles, and aid in recovery.
Some of the best static stretches include leaning calf stretch, hamstrings stretch, hip flexor stretch, abs stretch, glute stretch, and chest stretch. For detailed instruction find our complete guide to static stretching here.
Stretch and Flex
Before stretch and flex became a common name for workplace stretching programs this was actually a program developed to increase flexibility. About 25 years ago I actually applied stretch and flex principles to my stretching program to help me achieve being able to do the splits between two chairs just like John Claude Van Damme. I was in martial arts and found it extremely fulfilling to be able to show off my flexibility.
The principles of flexing while stretching are simple. It uses the same exercises as static stretching but instead during the stretch you will actually concentrate on flexing the muscles in the area you’re performing the stretch. You’ll perform the stretching and flexing in sets and hold for as long as you can up to a minute. In each following set you will try to achieve just a little bit more of a stretch then the last set. I used to do 3-4 sets at a time.
Stretching for Back Pain
If you’ve injured your back or have lived with back pain for a long time then you may already know that stretching is one of the key components to back rehab. There are specific exercises for your back that can dramatically make a big difference in your life. You should combine stretching with strengthening exercises. You may even need to use a specific back stretching device for your spine like an inversion table to help decompress your back. Many people have also found that adding yoga is a great combination of strengthening and stretching your back. I personally have found that it has made an enormous difference in my quality of life after injuring my back over 10 years ago. I live with an injury caused by inactivity and weak muscles. By stretching,using an inversion table, and doing yoga I have been able to keep my back pain away.
Stretching your back and increasing your core strength should be done by everyone. You should not wait until an injury causes you to have to strengthen these areas. In our mostly sedentary lifestyle most of us that do not stretch or exercise will eventually end up with back pain. Most of these problems can be prevented with the combination of stretching, exercise, and strength building. Prevent and Help Back Pain With These Top Stretches.
Keys to improving Flexibility
If your goal is flexibility then the key is to stretch often and more than once a day. Use your downtime like sitting on the couch watching TV to also stretch and improve your flexibility.
Make sure to always do dynamic stretching before strenuous activities. In addition make sure to do post-workout stretching using the static stretching methods. Many weight lifters will also stretch in between sets. Remember that flexibility takes time, this is something you will need to work at and do day in and day out. Whether you’re using it for health or injury prevention it’s something that you need to take your time with and do you often.
Did I miss any important methods? If so please let me know in the comments below?