Is Static Stretching Good For Me?

static stretchingThe movement of static stretching involves elongating the muscles when the body is at rest.

Note: This page was recently updated on Thursday 11th of September 2014

Also referred to as isometric stretching, static stretches hinder one’s explosive ability and has been proven detrimental to performance and increases joint instability which can result in injury.  This is precisely why this type of stretching is not recommended before physical activity but instead, should be performed after activity or during rest.

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A static stretch exercise can be done targeting any muscle group while breathing properly. Below is a list of stretches that can be performed once at a time…

  • Chest Stretch
  • Bicep Stretch
  • Upper Back Stretch
  • Shoulder Stretch
  • Lower Back Stretch
  • Triceps Stretch
  • Side Bend
  • Abdominal Stretch

As you are probably aware, static stretching vs dynamic stretching is quite different.

This form of stretching helps to improve overall flexibility and can be performed any time of the day other than prior to a workout. Perform this once for each tight muscle two times daily for as little as 4 minutes each time, holding each stretch between 15 and 30 seconds at a time for optimal gains, sometimes even longer.

You simply won’t maintain your flexibility gains if you hold for less than 15 seconds. Specialized tension receptors in the muscles correlate with these kinds of isometric stretches and when done accurately and properly, the tension receptor sensitivity will diminish, allowing further muscle relaxation and a greater stretch to be applied.

Typically, static stretching exercises for your hamstrings for example, simply involves you to focus on the hamstrings by leaning forward and holding that position for several seconds.

Targeting one muscle group is key, but it is imperative not to utilize static stretches prior to your workouts.  Reasons behind this include a reduction in blood flow to the targeted muscles, a decrease in central nervous system activity, which inhibits communication between muscles and a reduction in force output.

In addition, muscles tend to relax, temporarily causing them to weaken, resulting in an imbalance between opposite muscle groups. Simply put, a static hamstring stretch will cause them to become significantly weaker than the quadriceps, making the body much more susceptible to muscle pulls, tears, or strains.

Again, it is crucial not to perform static stretches prior to any work out or physical activity but rather during the cool down stage of activity or better yet, during rest. On the contrary, it has high value for improving “passive” flexibility: in other words, it is beneficial in everyday life endeavors distant from any kind of athletic performance.

Anything from bending, squatting, and kneeling can be great in these everyday situations.

Resources:
NY Times – http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/to-stretch-or-not-to-stretch/

Shape.com: Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching – http://www.shape.com/blogs/weight-loss-diary/best-way-stretch-and-after-workout


6 Responses to “Is Static Stretching Good For Me?”

  1. Rob says:

    What’s a good static stretch for the quadriceps?

    • JonJ says:

      Hey Rob.

      The standing quad stretch is a fundamental static stretch, where you simply stand and reach back holding your foot by bending your knee. A slight bend of the hips can apply an even further quadriceps stretch but only apply enough stress as you can handle.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Rebeka says:

    Is it alright to do static stretches prior to running sprints? I generally only do dynamic stretches but I don’t feel entirely stretched out before my sprints.

    Rebeka

  3. Jane says:

    Hey Rebeka, I too am a sprinter…a hurdler.

    In my opinion, static stretching should not be done immediately prior to a run. What I would recommend is to start off with your typical dynamic stretching routine, then a ten minute jog, followed by some dynamic stretching. That should loosen you up. It’s worked for me.

    Jane

    • JonJ says:

      While the debate continues regarding static stretching prior to physical activity, such as sprinting, I think Jane’s example can be safe and effective.

      If the muscles and body are warm with enough oxygenated blood distribution, static stretching can be effective. That being said, I do recommend starting your workout with a dynamic stretch followed by a light jog before ever considering to jump into a static stretch.

      Thank you Jane for your help and best of luck to you Rebeka. See what works for you and remember to train smart and safe.

    • Rebeka says:

      Hi! My warm-ups have been longer and I’m now finding the dynamic stretches helpful. Maybe I’ve been rushing into my sprints without an effective warm-up. Thanks for the advice people :)

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