Most of us do some sort of stretching before exercise, but do we understand what we are doing and why?
Generally people have moved away from static stretching before exercise in favour of dynamic stretching, but does this actually help performance?
Static stretching can be defined as holding a muscle in a lengthened position for a period of time. Years ago this was common practice prior to activity; however research has now shown static stretching to be detrimental to subsequent power output of the muscle.
Generally, that alone makes this type of stretching less useful before athletic performance.
There are times however when static stretching may be used before a performance.
If someone has a particular tight muscle, static stretching may actually improve joint alignment and subsequently aid movement efficiency.
This in turn would enhance performance and be worth the compromise in power.
Additionally, some athletes that partake in sports requiring significantly large ranges of motion, such as hurdles or gymnastics, may decide to static stretch prior to their sport to ensure optimal ranges can be achieved.
Research is now emerging about whether a combination of static and dynamic stretching pre performance could give athletes the range of motion requirements without the decreases in power output.
Dynamic stretching involves actively taking a muscle through a range of motion, often done repeatedly.
This type of stretching is now commonplace for most athletes before performance due to the fact it can increase blood flow to the working muscles, increase range and actually improve subsequent muscle power output.
Many studies have compared static stretching, dynamic stretching and no stretching at all prior to vertical jump tests.
The majority of these demonstrated the use of dynamic stretching to aid subsequent jump performance in comparison to static or no stretching.
So what dynamic stretches can you do before training then?
Have a try with the following:
- • Leg swings
- • Side lunges
- • Heel raises and lowers off a step
- • Lying crucifix
- • Walking deep lunges
Here’s an example of lying crucifix stretch:
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