Do you normally stretch before you do an activity or sport? Were you always taught to stretch when your muscles feel tight?
Turns out many of us are stretching incorrectly. A static stretch, where you hold a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds in an attempt to make the major muscles longer, should be done after exercising, or even at a different time altogether, rather than beforehand.
The reason for this is simple. When you are doing an activity or sport, you are asking the muscles to forcefully contract and shorten. When you are stretching, you are asking the muscles to relax and lengthen. Herein lays the issue: You are confusing the muscles by asking them to relax and lengthen in a pre-activity stretch, only to ask the muscles to forcefully contract and shorten right afterwards while exercising.
Examples of Static Stretches
- Head Bend (for the neck and upper trapezius muscle): Standing straight, stretch your left arm up and bend it behind you, placing your left hand against the back right side of your head. Gently pull your head toward your left shoulder until you can’t bend it further and hold for 30 seconds. Gently release your head, and then repeat on your right side.
- Arm and Shoulder Stretch (for throwing movements and shoulders): In an upright position, let your shoulders relax, with your arms hanging at your side. Bring your right arm forward and across your body. With your left hand, grab your right elbow and pull it into and across your body until you feel a pull in your shoulder and arm. Hold this position for 30 seconds, relax and repeat for your other side.
- Trunk Rotation: Stand up straight with your feet evenly placed approximately your shoulders’ width apart. Put your hands on your hips and bend forward as low as you can. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then rotate yourself until you’re bending to your right. Hold, and then rotate until you’re bending backward and holding still for a few seconds. Slowly rotate one last time and bend to the left, completing the rotation to fully stretch your abdominal region and hips.
- Hamstring Stretch: Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight and your arms resting at your side. With your left leg straight and still on the ground, raise your right foot toward the ceiling while keeping your right leg straight. Once you’ve straightened your right leg as much as possible, hold it in the air for 30 seconds before lowering it and repeating for the left side. This stretches your legs, focusing on the hamstring region on the back of your leg.
- Quadriceps Stretch: In a standing position, lift and bend your right leg backward. With your left hand, reach behind you and grab your right ankle. Gently pull your right foot up toward your buttocks. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then relax and return your foot to the ground. Repeat for the left leg.
We are not saying you should not warm up. Nothing will replace a good warm up before a sport or activity, but leave the static stretching out and instead replace with dynamic stretching. A dynamic warm-up uses stretches that are “dynamic,” meaning you are moving as you stretch. It activates muscles you will use during your workout, improves range of motion and body awareness, and enhances muscular performance and power. Dynamic stretching also challenges your balance and coordination and has been shown to increase overall athletic performance. If you want to get stronger, build more muscle, or simply perform better, dynamic stretching will help you achieve this.
For a great addition to your warm-up routine, we recommend the following dynamic stretch, known as ABC Skips:
- High Knees – Skip forward, raising your knees to a 90-degree angle, while the bottom of your raised leg’s foot stays parallel with the ground. Pump your arms in sync with your legs.
- Long Kicks – Skip forward, tucking the foot of your raised leg under your butt, and then extending your hamstrings before landing.
- Butt Kicks – Skip forward and snap your raised foot back as if you’re trying to kick your butt, while keeping your supporting leg straight.
For more tips on safe stretching, both pre and post-workout, please contact our office at 604-474-1276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.