Often times stretching is seen as an option before a workout, something we are supposed to do but is not necessarily essential. A quick little routine of touching your toes for a few seconds or pulling your arm across your chest, and you are good to go right? Unfortunately not, your stretching routine can actually make or break your workout.
Dangers of static stretching
Stretching is essential before a workout, but holding static stretching poses is not going to help you achieve your fitness goals. Research suggests static stretching hurts athletic performance. Strength, power, and explosive muscular performance all are affected negatively with a static stretching session before a workout or training session. Even if your muscles feel loose after static stretching, they will actually be less elastic and powerful.
Static stretching puts you at a higher risk of injury. Holding a stretch for several seconds will not raise your heart rate or body temperature, keeping your muscles cold and possibly leading to injury.
Why dynamic stretching is the better pre-workout option
Some people shy away from dynamic stretching because it seems like a mini-workout session before the actual workout, but it truly is the best way to prevent injury and boost performance. Dynamic stretching means your body is continually moving while stretching. It prepares your joints and muscles through continual repetitive motion, with each repetition stretching the muscle further. Because you are constantly moving, your body temperature will rise, warming up your muscles and lowering the risk of injury.
Another benefit to dynamic stretching is that it can be individualized for specific sports. Unlike static stretches that have no relevance to the actual activity about to be performed, dynamic stretching prepares you for the specific movements that will be performed. For example, dynamic stretches for a long run versus a basketball game will be very different due to the different movements needed for each activity.
The bottom line is take the extra 5-10 minutes before your workout for a dynamic stretching session, your muscles will thank you.
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