Static stretching vs dynamic stretching: an introduction

We all know that stretching is important. However, not all stretches are equal. In this blogpost we’ll shed a light on static stretching versus dynamic stretching. What is the difference between these two types of stretching? And is it better to do them before or after your workout?

What is static stretching?

Static stretching refers to stretching exercises where you stretch a muscle or group of muscles by holding a single position for a relatively long time (usually between 15 or 60 seconds, sometimes longer).

Some examples of static stretches:

  • Standing quadriceps stretch
  • Static tricep stretch
  • Butterfly stretch

What is dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretching is considered more functionally oriented way of stretching. It refers to specific controlled (usually repetitive) movements focused on actively increased the range of motion, but without holding a position or stopping at an endpoint.

Some examples of dynamic stretches:

  • Leg sweeps
  • Downward dog to cobra
  • Runner’s lunge with twist

Static stretching vs dynamic stretching

Static stretching got somewhat of a bad reputation during the 1980’s, when published studies indicated that doing static stretches before a workout had a negative impact on performance. There is some truth in this. If you move a joint past your range of motion and hold it for a longer period of time and then immediately start exercising without doing a contra-stretch for that muscle(group), it makes sense to experience a temporary decrease in muscle power, explosive strength and speed. That said, there is absolutely a time and a place for static stretching. Recent studies suggest that doing static stretches as part of your cooling down, is an excellent way to combat post-workout stiffness and sore muscles. Doing it regularly also increases your flexibility and range of motion in the long run.

Most dynamic stretches are designed to mimic the movements you make during your workout – which is why there are a lot of differences between recommended dynamic stretches for different sports). Dynamic stretches are primarily done as part of the warming up and help to prepare and activate the muscles for the activities you’re about to do. The movements also increase the blood flow and raise the temperature of the muscles, which helps to prevent injuries. Numerous studies have shown that dynamic stretching pre-workout has a positive effect on power and performance.

Final thoughts

In theory, it comes down to dynamic stretching during the warming up and static stretches during the cooling down. In practise, it’s not that black and white – a lot of static stretches can be tweaked to make them dynamic and suitable for warming up. Keep in mind that everyone is different. Whether you’re performing static or dynamic stretches, you should always listen to your body. Stretching is never supposed to hurt! If it does, ask your personal trainer for advice.

Static stretching vs dynamic stretching

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