What is the difference between these two types of stretching? How long should you hold stretches for? How often should you stretch? All of your burning questions answered below!
Stretching is a form of mobility work aiming to maintain or improve range of motion, lengthen muscles and reduce the risk of injury. We generally classify stretches into two categories: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches are typically recommended for the beginning of a workout as you are actively moving through the joint’s full range of motion. Comparatively, static stretching is usually performed at the end of your workout. Research supports sustaining a static stretch for anywhere between 30 and 45 seconds (NSCA, 2018).
In a well-planned, comprehensive workout session, you will want to incorporate a dynamic stretching routine to prepare the body for the activity you are about to engage in and end with static stretching to aid with muscle regeneration. When incorporating dynamic mobility work into your warm-up, the goal is to activate muscles in a lengthened state. You also want to ensure that you’re selecting dynamic stretches that will specifically support the task that you’re about to undertake.
For instance, if I am about to go for a run, I will want to do some walking lunges in preparation for the activity. This dynamic stretch encourages lengthening of the front of the hips in addition to activating hamstrings, enabling you to run with less restriction.
Now the real question: “Is it possible to overstretch?”
Surprisingly, it is in fact possible to stretch too much. Over-stretching can actually impact your performance because it can inhibit the stretch shortening cycle in your muscles which is precisely what you need for movements that require power, such as jumping.
In an effort not to over-stretch, pay attention to how long you are holding those static stretches in particular. Holding a stretch for less than 30 seconds does not have a negative effect on performance. However, holding it for more than 60 seconds can have a negative effect on your performance (Kay & Blazevich, MSSE 2012).
As physical therapists, we can help you select the appropriate dynamic and static stretches, helping you tailor the movement specifically to your needs and goals as well as ensure your safety to reduce the risk of injury!
In Good Health,
Laurence Agénor, PT, DPT, CSCS
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