Stretching is popular in both sport and fitness, with differing strategies on the proper stretch being highly dependent on the activity that you're stretching for.
- A dynamic stretch targets certain joints and muscles of the body, going through a series of motions that are meant to mirror the actual movements that you will go through for the intended activity. The “dynamic” aspect comes in the form of pushing the limb, joint, or muscle further with each stretch.
- A static stretch involves holding a part of the body in a position for roughly 30 seconds to a full minute. The “static” aspect, then, is in the hold itself.
Both approaches have their place in lifting and strength training, but it's important to know which is the better choice for placement and timing. Correct stretching improves posture, gives you greater stability, and reduces your chances of injury. When done properly, stretches can also improve your performance.
Before the Exercise:
Dynamic stretching is recommended before you begin.
- The Downward Dog stretch position is a popular one in yoga, but can also yield benefits for shoulders and hips. The motion, and not necessarily the hold itself, can be combined with other movements, such as a push up motion, which is what makes this more dynamic than static.
- Plank stretches are an effective stretch to build core strength.
- Simple Arm Circles can work to improve your range of motion during any activity that engages your arms and shoulders.
After the Exercise:
Static stretching is recommended after you've completed your workout. There's a great deal of debate on the effectiveness of this before you begin strength training, but keep in mind that most static stretching has been shown to actually decrease your performance level if you perform them before exercise that requires any amount of “explosive” strength.
- Hamstring stretches can do be appropriate after doing any leg-heavy activity, especially leg presses.
- Hip flexor stretches are good to do in general, even on off days, and especially if you work in a job that requires you to do a lot of sitting.
- In general, you will find that the static stretches found in yoga can be productive after exercise, or during off days as well.
Stretching is Good
The ultimate take away from this should be that stretching has some proven benefits, both before and after your strength training routine. A good stretch may not necessarily help you to reduce your chances of being injured, but it can actually assist if you are working out after recovering from an injury. Increased blood flow also means easier nutrient transportation to your muscles, so stretch, but do so in moderation.