In a way this article title is a loaded question. Over the years, there have been a number of different theories regarding the type of stretching you should do prior to and after exercise whether it was aerobic or resistance training. Hopefully I can better explain what I use in my methods and why.
In a nutshell, static stretching is simply trying to isolate a muscle group and statically holding it on stretch in hopes that it will elongate the muscle fiber. Some people will go to extremes with this one, but just like anything we should probably avoid the extreme ends of the spectrum (unless you’re a dancer, gymnast, someone who needs to be a human pretzel).
There has been a number of research studies regarding the efficacy of static stretching prior to and after exercise in hopes that this was in fact the answer to all of our problems. If we stretch prior to exercise or games, we will not get hurt. If we stretch after exercise or games, we won’t get sore. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that. Soreness hopefully by now is understood to be something dealing with volume and eccentric stress on the muscles. It appears to have something to do with a build-up of Hydrogen ions on the area which I realize doesn’t mean too much to the average person trying to learn something here. Stretching prior to exercise didn’t appear to have any great attributes either.
I will often do some level of static stretching in the very very beginning of the warm up. I like to open up the hips for starters, and if you take a step back and see that most individuals have chronic tightness in the same areas secondary to our high tech, sit at your desk, kind of lives.
I think that last reference to this type of stretching was in 1924?
Half kidding. If you’re still doing this type of stretching you either have been cryogenically frozen for the last 100 years, or you believe that whatever science says is false. Bounce stretching leads to more injury.
Stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, is an awesome tool for us physical therapists who want to eradicate increased tone with neuro patients, or individuals who are licensed to increase range of motion in someone who is potentially tight. I don’t say it this way to seem arrogant, but, we health enthusiasts are super eager to show off the new tools we bought at a weekend course. I agree that it is exciting, but why do we do anything? We should always have a why, and there is no reason to perform PNF stretching on someone when we can do it either non-manually or realize that it isn’t appropriate for some individuals.
If I do it with my athletes/clients, it is non-manual. I will often find a way to trick that individuals perception of what is happening. For example, band leg lower.
Not necessarily stretching in the sense that you hardly take your muscles into end range of motion. Instead, you’re gearing up for the upcoming day of exercise or games. You mimic some of the basic movements that you’re about to do which will prime the muscles and nervous system up without overload as well as raise the bodies core temperature as you’re moving. That’s what has been shown to reduce injury, increasing body temperature.
I’ve witness a number of strength facilities, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and sport coaches teach athletes/adults how to do dynamic exercises in a way that doesn’t seem logical. To me, it doesn’t make sense to go 0-100mph without testing the brakes and accelerator first. So why start with skipping and high knees just to turn around and slow everything down with some knee hugs?
We will use dynamic stretching prior to doing our movement and sprint drills. This is our last piece of the warm-up in some ways before we ask the athletes/clients to push themselves. We will start with slower, more controlled movements first and progress to low level running or even sprinting depending on who we are working with.
Putting it Together
So, an example of our warm-up would be:
foam roll, static stretch, mobility, activation, dynamic
For the items not highlighted here, I covered it in another post, check it out here and for part 2, here.