What’s the difference between static and dynamic stretches?
There are a number of different stretches that you can do. The main types I talk about with patients in my clinic are static and dynamic. They both have their pros and cons, which I’ll go into below.
It’s important to know the difference between the two types of stretches, as you can then choose which one suits you best.
Stretching can help maintain flexibility of your muscles, which I believe is an important factor in helping prevent injury. If you have the full joint range of movement, then the muscles are within their capabilities of absorbing impact. This also means your muscles need to be strong – something I’ll go into in another blog. If the muscles are in any way restricted, then the load from walking, running, jumping etc. has to be absorbed somewhere. This means joints may be taking on more force than you want, or that small muscles are over-working, which could lead to joint pain or tendon irritation (to name a few).
The best thing about stretching is you don’t need any fancy equipment, so there’s no excuse to avoid it!
Static stretching is perhaps the most well-known and traditional style of stretching. This involves stretching a group of muscles e.g. your quads (front of the thigh) for at least 30 seconds per stretch. Holding the stretch for a long time lets the muscles get used to a lengthened position and encourages them to stay there. When you want to stretch a muscle, think of where it is and then whilst stretching, make sure you feel the stretch sensation in that area. If you don’t feel any stretch then you may need to alter your positioning so you can target the right muscles.
Here are a few examples of static stretches:
You don’t require any training to perform these exercises. They are simple and efficient. These stretches can be done after activity when your muscles are warm or after a hot shower or any other time that’s convenient to you.
There are a few limitations to static stretching. I normally suggest 4-5 repetitions of 30-second hold, which is nearly 3 minutes. So, if you’re wanting to stretch all the major muscles in the body, this may take you a while!
However, some research suggests that static stretches before any activity may reduce performance and explosive power. You may want to consider dynamic stretches before exercise instead.
Dynamic stretches are another popular and effective type of stretch. You move the joint through a range of movement, rather than just holding it in one place.
The two examples in the photos are high knees, which will get the hips and knees warmed up and jumping, which will target the calves.
So how is dynamic stretching beneficial to you?
Dynamic stretching will help get your muscles ready for exertion, increase blood flow towards the muscles and get them ready for a workout. Dynamic stretching increases the core temperature of your muscles and so prepares them for exercise. It can also mentally prepare you for the game or exercise ahead.
To figure out your best warm-up, break down the different movements in your chosen exercise.
Let’s take running as an example, broadly speaking you’ll be lifting your leg, bending your knee and then straightening your leg. Warm-up exercises should include high knees, jumping or hopping and heel flicks. Or if you take golf, you’ll be walking (probably up and down hills) as well as standing and rotating your upper body. Warming up for golf should include high knees, squats and trunk rotations.
A word of caution with these types of exercises, there is the possibility that you may over-stretch a joint and/or muscle. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypermobility, for example, care is required so that you don’t push your body too far. Knowing the normal joint range of movement can be valuable as you can then adapt your stretches so that you don’t exceed this range. If in any doubt, consult a professional to discuss your individual needs.
Which one will you choose?
So that’s the two types of stretches.
Personally, I recommend dynamic stretches over static stretches, particularly before activities. Static stretches can have a place in someone’s workout or daily routine, to help keep them flexible. However, I like to check out why a particular muscle is tight and if necessary address any muscle imbalance with a strength programme which can negate the need for static stretches in the long-term. I’ll go into this topic in a separate blog post.
Overall, stretching has a place with physical activity, just pick and choose which ones are the best for you and the activities you want to do. They generally don’t take much of your time and effort and can help prepare you for your chosen activity.
As always, if in doubt, please get yourself assessed so you can address your individual needs.