First, let’s start off with the real reason why we stretch before a workout. No, not because we feel sore or tight; I will discuss this topic a little later -just scroll down if you’re impatient. The purpose of stretching is to promote a positive impact on a few of our physiological variables: increase our muscle’s core temperature, get our heart rate up, reduce muscle stiffness, and improve the amount of oxygen our body utilizes per minute.
Uncover the definitions: Static stretching is where you hold a position for 30 seconds or longer to really stretch your muscle. Dynamic stretching is reaching that stretch position but not holding it for a long duration. Your body is still moving during the stretch.
When people performed static stretching before training, the individual’s strength was decreased from the beginning of the workout and for an hour after the static stretch. Their strength decreased by 13%! Some people may not think this is a huge gap in numbers, but if you are someone training for a competition or trying to hit a 1RM this could greatly vary the amount you can lift. Static stretching decreases muscle stiffness but there seems to be a correlation between a decrease in strength and a decrease in muscle stiffness. For example, let’s say my usual 1RM in bench press is 180 (LOL imagine me pressing 180 lbs) without static stretching beforehand; now if my strength also decreased by 13% from static stretching before the bench press, then my 1RM would turn out to be around 157 lbs. Now that’s a solid 20 lb difference (give or take if my strength decrease is actually 13%. This is just an example based on the research).
Performing dynamic stretching before a workout has proven to increase an individual’s strength and performance. Why? Because dynamic stretching hits all the physiological variables we spoke about earlier ( an increase of core temperature, increased heart rate, slight decrease in muscle stiffness, and an improvement of you oxygen consumption). Overall, dynamic has been shown to improve performance by 1.3%. A few of my favorite dynamic stretches are below!
Feeling sore or tight before your workout?
We all tend to use the word “stiff/tight” when we wake up sore the next day and can barely get out of bed. Remember that feeling like your muscles are still contracted and you no longer have a full range of motion (ROM)? Yep, that’s muscle stiffness. Have you ever noticed that muscle stiffness has a bad connotation to it? Picture someone in the gym getting ready to train legs but is holding a static hip opener stretch before jumping into it (YO, this used to be me), and their usual reason is that their hips feel tight. Static stretching before training may feel good because you no longer feel as “tight,” but it actually hinders your performance (as we addressed above) because your muscles end up losing a bit of their elasticity. This “stiff” feeling isn’t always bad before training. Getting rid of your muscle stiffness reduces your muscle’s elasticity and lessens your muscle’s recoil action. Alright, think of your muscles during this time period as a rubber band. If you take a rubber band and stretch it as far as it can go for a long period of time (static stretching) when you let go of the rubber band it will have lost a lot of its elasticity and will not recoil as much. Your rubber band (you) has lost its force producing capabilities. Now, if you take a rubber band and stretch it for a quick second (dynamic stretching), BAM, it shoots right back and keeps its elasticity!
When to perform static stretching
Save it for later. Static stretching focuses on holding your muscles at a longer length and would produce a greater benefit when it is not paired with exercising. Static stretching is good for both your ROM and flexibility when practiced on a normal basis. You are best to perform static stretching long before your workout and after your workout. Some examples of static stretching are pictured below!
- Dynamic stretching before a workout increases your strength training
- Static training before a workout will hinder your strength training
- Both dynamic and static stretching increase your range of motion (ROM) and flexibility.
- Muscle stiffness is not always a bad thing. It contributes to your muscle’s elasticity/ recoil.
- Dynamic stretch before a workout. Static stretch after your workout.
*Information gathered from athletic subscription M.A.S.S. All information is constructed from scientific research articles and studies.