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Health and Fitness News

Stretching: Static Vs. Dynamic

What’s the difference and what role does each play in fitness?

If you’re like many people, you may be tempted to jump into exercise and forget about the warm up and cool down. However, when you do this, you miss out on an important part of fitness. Stretching is an often-overlooked part of exercise, but without it your muscles will suffer.

What’s the big deal about stretching? When done before your workout, stretching prepares your muscles to move. As ligaments and muscles lengthen, your flexibility and range of motion increases, keeping you safe during your routine. After exercise, stretching helps your muscles cool down.

The two main types of stretches are dynamic and static, and they each play a different role in your body’s good health.

Dynamic Stretching

The best stretches to do during your warm up before your exercise are dynamic stretches. Following a 5- to 10-minute warm-up of low-intensity cardio such as walking, jogging, or swimming, spend a few minutes with dynamic stretches. These gentle and controlled movements work your joints through a full range of motion to decrease stiffness and increase muscle temperature. If your joints feel stiff or tight, don’t give up. The more times you go through the movements, the greater your range of motion may become. With dynamic stretching, the movements may be general or specific to the activity you’re preparing for. As opposed to static stretches, dynamic stretches work more than one muscle group at a time, and you move your body during dynamic stretches.

Examples of Dynamic Stretches

Not sure what dynamic stretches to do? Try these.

1. Get your arms and shoulders warmed up and ready for exercise with arm circles. Swing your arms forward and backward in circles, starting with small circles and gradually increasing the size of the circle.

2. Warm up your legs and hips with a few leg swings. Stand on one leg and swing the other leg side to side and front to back, gradually swinging higher each time. Switch legs. Hold onto a wall or chair for support if needed.

3. Do a few torso twists to warm up your core and spine. Stand with your feet placed shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and keep your arms by your sides. Then, twist your torso from side to side.

Static Stretching

When you think of stretching, static stretches most likely come to mind. Static stretches are best done following your workout when your muscles are already warm. After you’ve spent a few minutes cooling down, plan for some static stretches. This type of stretching extends a muscle as far as it will go in its range of motion, then holds that position for 20 to 30 seconds. Each stretch should be repeated two to three times. These stretches are meant to increase flexibility and focus on one muscle group at a time.

Examples of Static Stretches

Working your way from your head to your feet, static stretches can work each major muscle group. Here are a few examples of static stretches to include in your routine.

1. Stretch your shoulders with the posterior capsule stretch. Extend your left arm across the front of your body and use your right hand to gently press your left elbow toward your chest. Switch arms and repeat.

2. Do side bends by raising your hands over your head and bending your body to the right at your waist. Hold and then bend to the left.

3. Give your hamstrings a stretch by resting your left foot on a low stool or bench in front of you. Lean your body forward, bending at the hips until you feel a stretch along the back of your thigh. Keep your back straight and your left leg straight. Switch legs and repeat.

4. To stretch your quadriceps, bend your left knee and bring your left foot up toward your buttocks. Hold onto your left ankle with your left hand and gently press until you feel a stretch along the front of your thighs. Switch legs. You may need to hold onto a wall or chair back to keep your balance.