Is it time, once again, to stretch? For decades, many of us stretched before a workout, usually by reaching toward our toes or leaning against a wall to elongate our hamstrings, then holding that pose without moving until it felt uncomfortable, a technique known as static stretching. Most people, including scientists and entire generations of elementary-school P.E. teachers, believed that static stretching lengthened muscles and increased flexibility, making people better able to perform athletically.
However in recent times, there has been a big debate over the issue that which one is better – Static stretching or Dynamic Stretching? Well static stretching basically implies very basic form of work out that requires the body to stretch as far as possible and hold that stretch. This kind of stretching mainly focuses on stretching of the soft tissues like muscles, tendons, joint capsules etc. But it doesn’t require you to make an effort to try to stabilize yourself. You simply have to stretch.
On the other hand, Dynamic stretching like arms circles, exaggerating a kicking action and walking lunges (without weights) uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch which is more likely to be useful in increasing flexibility before a competition. If you take walking lunge for example, it dynamically stretches the hip flexors by emphasizing hip extension that can reduce muscle tightness around the hip joint necessary for competition. Dynamic stretches has also been shown to reduce muscle tightness, which is an important factor associated with an increased occurrence of musculo-tendinosus tears during sports.
More recent scientific studies seem to suggest that dynamic stretches are more preferable before competition as to static stretches. As static stretches doesn’t involve too much work out, it doesn’t raise the body temperature to the correct scale which is required to put the body into the right state before competitions. While 10 mins of dynamic stretching gives you an increased flexibility and grooved motor patterns that gets you all fired up. This is the reason why this flexible form of stretching may particularly be useful for strength and power athletes. However, static stretching is of great help when it comes to fixing your posture.
Dynamic stretching is similar to ballistic stretching except that it avoids bouncing motions. Ballistic stretching has been mostly associated with a high risk of injury with all its jerky movements. Since dynamic stretches avoid that, it automatically brings down the chances of a person getting injured while stretching. Moreover, it tends to incorporate more sport-specific movements; so athletes find it very useful before competitions.
But most importantly if you are used to stretching, be it static or dynamic, keep doing it. All of them work just fine as long as they keep you fit, active and flexible with minimum injuries. Otherwise dynamic stretching or no stretching may be needed for a workout or ball game.
So if you stretch now before exercising and enjoy it, continue. “The negative psychological impact of altering pre-competition routine may outweigh any possible benefit associated with removing” static stretching, the study of female runners concluded. But if you don’t stretch, don’t sweat it. “I would say there is no rationale” for most of us to practice “short duration static stretches,” Dr. McHugh said.