Stretching is an essential part of performing physical activities, exercises, and workouts. It helps prevent injuries by conditioning the joints and muscles for vigorous movements.
Two of the most basic types of stretching are static stretching and dynamic stretching.
Static stretching refers to performing isometric movements, holding these movements for several seconds, and repeating the movement several times; This allows the muscles and joints to reach their maximum range of motion. Dynamic stretching refers to mimicking actual movements from the physical activity or sport in order to improve muscular coordination while improving flexibility and fluidity of movement.
One of the distinct differences between dynamic and static stretching is the focus on functional and active movement.
Dynamic stretching attempts to mimic the actual movement in a specific sport or activity. This engages and prepares the muscles for the types of movement that it will perform.
Some of the popular forms of dynamic stretching include forward lunges with torso twists, jump squats, leg pendulums, and high kicks. Professional athletes are seen performing dynamic stretches pre-game to condition the muscles and joints and prevent injuries.
Rehearsing movement patterns in sports or any physical activity is known to increase power output and sprinting and jumping performance. The improved blood circulation in the muscles reduces muscular resistance and releases muscular tension from tightened muscles.
Some people, however, perform a specific type of dynamic stretching called ballistic stretching. This involves using the momentum of the limbs of the body to stretch up to the end of its range of motion. This type of stretching is linked to injuries when performed excessively.
While dynamic stretching provides an active and vigorous exercise for multiple muscle groups all at once, static stretching provides passive movement held for several seconds. Static stretching is also called passive stretching or isometric stretching which involves stretching the muscles and joints to the end of its range of motion.
Some people use resistance bands to increase the tension when static stretching. This aids in providing more resistance for the muscles and improving or hastening the warm-up process.
Static stretching is usually done for 15-30 seconds and for 2-4 repetitions for each muscle group. Moving the muscles and joints to the end of its range of motion for a minimum of 20 minutes can lessen the tension and increase flexibility significantly. It also increases blood circulation in these specific body parts.
Examples of static stretching include the hamstring stretch, posterior capsule stretch, and quadricep stretch.
Static stretches usually stretch only a singular muscle or a set of muscles. These exercises are repeated up to 4 times to ensure that the joints and muscles are fully mobile and flexible.
Dynamic stretching is performed for any length of time before physical activity or workout. Moving the entire body using movements from the actual physical activity mobilizes and potentiates the entire body.
However, dynamic stretching should always be performed in a controlled motion. Ballistic stretching can cause an unnecessary tear in the muscle fibers which can cause injury. Uncontrolled movements for improving the body's flexibility to attain a maximum range of motion are counterproductive to the goals of stretching.
Static stretching is associated with improving range of motion and flexibility. It lubricates the muscles and joints and prevents pain and stress when performing physical activities, which is usually caused by tight muscles.
Static stretching also improves mind-body connection and improves blood flow for faster muscle recovery. Usually, this type of stretching is best for people undergoing physical rehabilitation and recovery from an injury.
It is important to stop stretching the joints and muscles when it becomes painful. Feeling pain when stretching means that the muscles are stretched beyond its capacity. Also, it is important to relax the muscles and avoid stretching them for too long. This usually leads to muscle tightening and contracting further.
Research has shown, however, that static stretching may contribute to a decrease in performance. Specifically, static stretching results in decreased vertical jump, agility, and sprint times. The isometric movements associated with static stretching does not incorporate muscle coordination.
Dynamic stretching has shown positive effects in improving flexibility, range of motion, and muscular performance. The mimicking of actual movements in sports or physical activities also increases bodily awareness which increases physical and mental preparedness.
Proper usage of dynamic stretching through techniques and controlled movement helps when performing explosive and intense movements. This is especially useful in contact and speed-related sports such as basketball or football.
Dynamic stretching is also associated with an increase in power and speed by priming the muscles of the body in performing and producing force through efficient use of the body's range of motion. This type of stretching conditions the body while at the same time protecting the joints from overstretching.
Dynamic stretching is also found to activate the body's central nervous system (CNS); This is also attributed to performance output.
Despite the differences between static and dynamic stretching, both these types of stretching can contribute to individual physical well-being. Static stretching can be used to increase flexibility and increase the length of the muscle fibers. Dynamic stretching can then follow up to prepare the various parts of the body for the actual physical movements.
Also, static stretching has a cooldown effect on the body. It can be used to facilitate muscular recovery after a workout or physical activity. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a form of static stretching usually performed by licensed physical therapists to improve physical recovery.
Static stretching has been the standard form of stretching. Most of the stretching exercises commonly used today involve stretching the muscles towards their maximum range of motion. However, research has shown that dynamic stretching is superior in conditioning the body for a physical activity. Its mimicry of actual sport movements conditions both the mind and body for the activity being performed.