Whether it’s before a run, after a workout, or as a part of an active daily routine, stretching can a valuable component to physical health. We can decrease muscle tension, increase mobility, and improve overall well-being. And while it’s important to consider “why” and “when” we stretch, the “how” is also a crucial part of the picture.
Stretches are typically performed by holding a position where a muscle is lengthened beyond is normal resting length. Exactly how long a stretch should be held is variable according to the task. Some research suggests that longer bouts of stretching (60 seconds) can have significant reductions in strength performance if done before a workout. This means that longer stretches may not be the best thing to do before certain types of exercise. However, longer stretches can help facilitate recovery if done after a workout. In this case, try aiming for 20 to 30 seconds per stretch before a workout and 45 to 60 seconds after a workout .
For some individuals getting into and holding a comfortable position to stretch a muscle group is problematic. Fortunately, there are alternative mobility strategies we can implement, such as dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are a great way to ease the body into whatever task is at hand.
Next time your warming up for the day or for exercise try doing some active movements such as:
High Knee Walks or Jogs
and Various Crawling Patterns
Aim to do each one of these exercises for 30 seconds. In less than 5 minutes your body should be ready to go!
Helpful tips on stretching:
-Integrate soft and synchronized breathing patterns with each exercise.
-Try to capture additional antagonistic muscles within a stretch.
-Monitor progress (new range of motion) with each session.
-Most importantly, make sure you use a range of motion that is pain-free.
Given the right context there may be some benefit to adding a flexibility component to your exercise routine. Stretching should include dynamic and static components to maximize performance, recovery, and well-being.