INSHAPE NEWS OPINION
Photo credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli, 2011 – Stretched
Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer
We all know the benefits of using stretching, however knowing exactly what, how and when to stretch is often confusing to most. Both static stretching and dynamic stretching are good ways to achieve flexibility results. Although, they should be used in different situations and at different times. Let’s have a look at the differences of when it is best to do them.
Firstly, you should only ever stretch what is tight. Always remember stretching weakens muscles. This form of stretching stretches a particular muscle more than dynamic stretching, however, you can overstretch a muscle to a point where it becomes too relaxed.
For example, before a set of a certain exercise such as a chest press, if your pecs show no sign of tightness and your shoulder is extending down with adequate range of motion, then the pecs do not need a stretch as the shoulder is already achieving the required range of motion. Consequently, this is when static stretching will weaken your strength throughout the set. Although, if you can’t achieve the range of motion of the exercise then retest the pec stretch and if it has a limited range within the stretch, it is now needed to be performed before the set to achieve the range of motion in the exercise.
We often need to do this for hip muscles that inhibit weak glute muscles. We stretch the hips before the exercise, let’s say a lunge and then complete the exercise with the focus on building strength into the weak area. By stretching the tight hip muscles first we are able to shut them down from overworking in the lunge and allow the weak muscles (glutes & hamstrings) to do more of the work.
Static stretching is also a great way to cool down as it relaxes muscles after a hard session!
Another good time to do static stretching is before going to bed, if your health professional has identified tight areas that need to be loosened up, this is time to do so, as when you sleep your muscles are relaxed, meaning when you stretch them more they will stay in the stretched and relaxed position for a longer time, allowing any changes to the flexibility joints to improve very quickly.
These are ideal to be performed before an exercise session as a warm up, and before a set to achieve the range of motion with a certain exercise. They are a great warm up compared to static stretching as they deliver more blood flow to the muscles and joints, cause the muscle fibres to wake up through the movement of the stretch, and therefore, prevent injury before exercise. This form of stretching should be done before the session regardless, if it still does not achieve mobility through an exercise, then static stretching is the last resort.
- Before exercise (warm-up): dynamic stretching
- After exercise (cool down): static stretching
- If you can’t achieve the range of motion in an exercise: dynamic stretching.
- If you still can’t achieve the range of motion in the exercise: static stretching.
Lastly, the best time of day to improve overall joint flexibility is late at night right before bed. Just remember only stretch what is tight and always do a warm up before stretching.
Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.
Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.
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Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.