Static or Dynamic stretches; which is better? Ten years ago we were told not to stretch before exercise. Now it’s the opposite. When it comes to static stretching vs. dynamic stretching, which is best?
Stretching is essential to improving your health, muscle tone and most importantly, flexibility. However, flexibility is often overlooked and generally not the main focus of workouts and fitness programmes.
There are several different types of stretching, static, dynamic, ballistic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).
What is static stretching?
Static stretching is probably the most common type of stretching. With static stretching, you stretch a muscle or group of muscles by holding the stretch for a period of time. The stretch is usually held for 15-60 seconds. This is then repeated 2–4 times.
Static stretching has gone from being the best way to warm up to being something no-one should ever do again. Research in the 1980’s found that static stretching before exercise could decrease muscle power. Some sports such as football (soccer) are against static stretching because of the research supporting this. However, other research suggests that static stretching has been found to effectively increase flexibility and range of motion (ROM).
Some research has suggested the use of static stretching is more appropriate for the cool down.
What is dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching is a more functionally oriented stretch. Sport specific movements are used to move the limbs through greater ROM. It involves whole body movements and actively moving a joint passed its ROM without holding the movement at its endpoint. This is usually repeated around 10-12 times.
Although dynamic stretching requires more thoughtful coordination than static stretching, it has gained popularity with athletes, coaches and trainers. Research has shown that dynamic stretching is effective for increasing flexibility, maximal muscle strength, sprint and vertical jump performance. However, other studies show that dynamic stretching has no effect on strength and performance.
Should you stretch before a workout?
Whether or not you should stretch before a workout has long been subject to debate. For many years experts recommended stretching before any workout, activity or sport. It was thought stretching beforehand would reduce injury risk and prepare the body for any strenuous effort to come. In fact, it was typically the only time people did stretch. Most of the stretching was static. But it is important to assess static stretching vs. dynamic stretching in terms of a warm-up.
Static stretching vs. dynamic stretching
So, static stretching vs. dynamic stretching, which is best? In all honesty, it’s difficult to suggest what is right for a particular person. There’s no concrete evidence that stretching before a workout automatically increases your risk of injury. It might not even alter your performance. But it is easy to understand why athletes, trainers and coaches are reluctant to use static stretching when the research is so persuasive.
However, a lack of flexibility seems to be a causative factor in gradual-onset injuries that plague today’s athletes. These overuse problems, as mentioned above, seem to relate strongly to long-term tissue changes that don’t necessarily respond to dynamic stretching. The fact is that athletes’ warm-ups need to combine both dynamic and static stretching (preceded by foam rolling)