When looking up this article about stretching, the obvious question is:
I’ve gotten into the habit of walking into the gym and beginning my workout without warming up. Should I stretch or warm up? What’s the best practice?
Should I stretch? How often should I stretch? What kind of stretching should I do?
The idea of stretching is to elongate the muscle and get your muscles “warmed up,” in a sense, before some sort of physical activity. There are many different schools of thoughts on stretching. Some live by it, some don’t utilize it at all. As most of you know surely know, there is more than one way of stretching.
Usually, when the average Joe hears stretching, they think they are going to sit or stand just hold a certain stretch position for a pre-determined amount of time. That’s cool and all but that isn’t the only, or even the most effective, way of stretching the muscles.
Warming up is essential to a good workout—it is the cornerstone to staying limber and flexible! Warm-ups prime your nervous system; prepare your muscles; increase the delivery of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your muscles; and ready your mind for exercise and performance. Cold muscles are more susceptible to injury.
Dynamic Stretching and Static Stretching – Which is Best?
So, to the nitty gritty… There’s dynamic stretching and static stretching. The latter is simply holding a certain stretch position for 20-40 seconds or so, while the body is at rest. I suppose that’s half decent, but it is not optimal.
Dynamic stretching is what you want to do. Dynamic stretching actually involves using some sort of momentum to get the muscles stretched out.
This BodyBuilding.com article about stretching has some pretty good dynamic stretches to incorporate into your stretching / warm up routine. And they even have little videos with descriptions of said stretches. Check ’em out!
Remember though – Pre-workout is where dynamic stretching shines!
Is dynamic stretching the end-all-be-all? Well, I dunno. But it’s certainly better than static stretching!
Research suggests that static stretches are a great way to cool down after a training session. And, if you need to release a muscle that’s not a primary mover, sometimes a static stretch is the only thing that works. Don’t stretch a primary mover while working it out. Stretching your pecs between sets of bench press is not a good practice.
Static stretching can, and should, be done post-workout. It’s a good cool down type activity, and it never hurts to elongate your muscles while your body is at “rest.”
In general, dynamic stretching before you train and static stretching after you train is a great way to warm up and cool down. By taking the time to warm up and stretch before any workout, you’ll minimize the chance of injury.