All workout programs should include three different components: cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility training. All three of these are extremely important as they ensure that you are not only strengthening and conditioning your muscles, but are also stretching them out in order to promote blood flow and prevent injury. Namely, these three components are the building blocks required in having a well-rounded exercise regime.
When it comes to stretching in particular, there is a lot of confusion surrounding what type of stretching you should be doing and when you should be doing it. Stretching goes beyond just reaching down and touching your toes, and is an influential factor for how well your body will perform during the other two components of exercise.
Dynamic stretching should always be done prior to physical exercise as a way to warm up the muscles you plan to use. This form of stretching requires you to be in constant motion and includes movements such as arm swings, burpees, and jumping jacks. Elevating your heart rate and warming up your muscles prior to exercise helps to promote blood flow and prevent injury. While performing dynamic stretches, it is important to make sure that your limb is moving at a consistent pace and that you are not bouncing at the end of the movement in attempt to increase your muscles range of motion.
Static stretches are much different than dynamic stretches. They should always be performed post-workout, as a way to prevent the buildup of lactic acid and increase your muscles range of motion. Despite what many believe, you should never perform static stretching prior to working out, as studies prove that doing so can in fact negatively impact your performance during sport-specific strength training. In comparison to dynamic stretching that requires constant movement as you work through each motion, static stretching requires you to hold each individual stretch for a minimum of 15-30 seconds.
Stretching is a component of exercise that is often overlooked and rarely prioritized despite how much it can help improve your physical performance. A well-rounded exercise regime includes all three of the components mentioned above, and failing to incorporate both dynamic and static stretching into your routine can have a seriously negative effect on your progress. Whether your goal is to increase your muscles range of motion for one specific exercise, or to just become more flexible overall, stretching is something we should all be devoting more time to.
By Julia Solimine