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To stretch or not to stretch?

This has always been a widely debated fitness topic across the globe. Years ago, athletes or gym participates would participate in static stretches then perform their sports. However, scientific studies prove otherwise. In this article we breakdown the topic of stretching, when to do it and what types of stretches to perform. A personal trainer Vancouver or Richmond or Surrey can distinguish both.

Generally in most cases there are two types of stretches. Let’s define these before moving further. Static stretching is defined by a position held to lengthen a muscle from 10 to 30 seconds. Dynamic stretching is defined by a form of active movement that takes a joint through its range of motion. In other words, dynamic stretching is more fluid and requires movement whereas static stretching is held still. A personal trainer in Richmond can describe the benefits of both.

Scientific studies have shown and recommended that we perform dynamic stretching before an athletic event. But why? To increase range of motion in the joint WITHOUT losing power and explosiveness in our muscles. This is very important when athletes are participating in power sports such as hockey or football. With dynamic stretching athletes can fluidly use their joints with the corresponding muscles to increase range of motion. This allows the joint, muscles, tendons and ligaments to create a better “connection”. This is done through heat transfer from movement in the muscles.

So why is static stretching important? This type of stretching is important to increase flexibility or for rehabilitation purposes. For an example, take a baseball pitcher who needs to increase shoulder range of motion to increase performance. He/she would perform numerous shoulder stretches to improve that weak point. I would recommend that they hold each stretch for 45 seconds to a minute to maximize the benefits. Another example could be an individual for lower back pain. With tight and limited lumbar area, it is recommended to statically stretch that area using static stretches. A personal trainer in Richmond will recommend similar recommendations.

When should we perform static stretches? It is recommended to perform static stretches after a training a session. The reason for that is because the targeted joint and tendons are full of heat and blood, making it very fluid and lubricated. This makes increasing range of motion much easier for the joint.

To answer the question: to stretch or not to stretch. The answer is stretch but know what type of stretching to use at different times. I would recommend using dynamic stretches before an event or a training session in order to retain power and explosiveness while increasing appropriate range of motion. Static stretches is generally performed at the end of an event or training session to maintain or increase range of motion.

Now let’s discuss about some unorthodox stretching methods. These can be found in specific sports where these stretches are used to increase performance.

Ballistic stretching is defined as using the momentum of a swing, of the body or a limb, to force a joint beyond the normal range of motion. You can find this type of stretching used in martial arts or ballet. They commonly use leg swings, either forward or laterally, to increase the range of motion. This allows momentum and the weight of their leg to force an increase boundary of tendons and tissues in the joint.

PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching is stated as the most effective way of stretching. It is defined as flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contracting of the muscle group being targeted. Take a lying hamstring stretch for an example. The first part requires a partner to push the leg upwards to passively stretch the hamstrings. Once the end-range is met, the stretching individual will actively push down the leg against the partner, activating the hamstring muscles. This active contraction will last approximately 20 – 30 seconds. Once active contraction is completed, the stretching partner will attempt to push the leg further to increase range of motion.

So to STRETCH or NOT to stretch? Well, it depends on when you are performing it. It also depends on the type of stretching performed as well. Use it wisely. You may be compromising power and explosiveness.

Until next time,

Coach Marco

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