Stretching is one of those things that – in a busy life where we are lucky to even be fitting in a work out – often gets left by the way-side. And despite all my training, education and knowledge I’m just as guilty as the next person.
Most gym classes these days are focussed on getting people in and out and maximising the actual workout time. They rely on people to stretch before and after all of their own accord… and well.. we know how that usually goes!
Stretching can (and should) be performed before and after exercise or even as a workout in itself to encourage recovery, rejuvenation as well as flexibility and increased strength.
There are a number of different stretching techniques and depending on your objective, different techniques should be used on different occasions. In all cases proper technique is key to avoid injury.
Dynamic stretching essentially means using movement during your stretch as opposed to holding it (a static stretch). Over recent years it’s been found that dynamic stretching during warm up is much more beneficial than doing a static stretch for a number of reasons.
- Improves your range of motion
- Activates muscles used during a workout
- Improves body awareness aiding balance and co-ordination
- Enhances muscular performance and power
Dynamic stretches should be slow and controlled. Many trainers recommend it after a brisk warm up walk or slow jog and before the core workout.
NOTE: You may hear of Ballistic stretching which is dynamic stretching with rapid bouncy movements and while you may still see people bouncing up and down in their stretches I have three words… NO, NO and NO!!!!!!!!
Static stretches were a long time favourite method of warming up before dynamic, however studies have shown that they can in fact impair explosive movement and performance. These days they are left til the cool down.. to stretch muscles while at rest and in recovery.
These stretches are designed to hold a position focusing on relaxing the part of the body being stretched. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue Conversely, if done prior to activity, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.
Stretching as a Workout
Of course stretching can be a work out all on it’s own.. try a yoga class!
For anyone who thinks yoga is sitting around in a circle holding hands and singing Kumbaya… just come down on Saturday to my Hot Yoga Class…. I DARE YOU!
A yoga class will give you increased flexibility, reduce cramps and body aches, calm your mind, tone your body. It will also assist recovery from workouts that stiffen muscles such weights and swimming.
Add a few ceiling mounted heat pads cranked up over 30 degrees Celsius (86F). I guarantee this will be one of the hardest workouts you’ve probably done.