by Designing Moms Fitness Contributor : Jeremy of Twisted Twilight
Due to the more sedentary lifestyle we lead today, we have become more and more prone to injury and postural imbalances due to our lack of flexibility; long hours in the office sitting with legs bent and shoulders rounded over a keyboard are recipes for muscle tightness and dysfunctions to occur.
During movement, our muscles work in what are called synergistic groups; you can think of these groups as a first string, or main muscle, and a second string or the backup muscle that supports the main muscle. If these ‘groupings’ of muscles are inhibited by tightness, one group either has to work twice as hard or less efficient to complete the movement. Obviously our goal is total muscle balance so a stretching routine is important whether you need it for sports specific activities or if you need to just feel better throughout the day.
Much has been debated lately about the different types of stretching and when to do them. To clarify, there are two major types of stretching: static and dynamic. Most of us are more familiar with the former. Static stretching is finding the point of tension and holding it for 10-30 seconds. Although it’s often been taught as an injury prevention measure, static stretching prior to a workout might contribute to less efficient movement in preparation for that activity. When you stretch, it forces that muscle to relax temporarily making it weaker and causing a strength imbalance.
Static stretching also reduces blood flow to your muscles, decreasing activity to your central nervous system—which inhibits your brain’s ability to communicate with your muscles, decreasing your capacity to generate force. Bottom line: avoid static stretching prior to your workout or sports specific events. Save it for more non-athletic types of activities.
RULES FOR STATIC STRETCHING
When: Any time with the exception of before a workout. Static stretching after a workout is a good cool down and brings the muscle back to its normal length tension
Why: To improve general flexibility for everyday activities
How: Try to stretch twice a day, everyday for permanent lengthening of muscles. If you work in an office environment, it is doubly important for you to stretch multiple times everyday
Tools: AIS stretching rope, a towel or a foam roller are your best tools for getting those knots out
Dynamic stretching on the other hand is stretching the muscle in a repetition format at a controlled, slow tempo. I often give my clients this analogy: think of your muscle as a rubber band, take that rubber band and leave it in the icebox overnight. The next morning, take that rubber band and stretch it to the point of tension and hold. Doing this creates a higher percentage that it might snap. Now, everything being equal, take the same rubber band and in a slow and controlled manner, pull and relax. You may have already guessed that this will warm up that muscle by increasing blood flow making it more elastic, decreasing the chance of a pull or injury.
RULES FOR DYNAMIC STRETCHING
When: Before a workout or a physically strenuous activity
Why: To improve performance, increase blood flow to the muscle and reduce your risk of injury
How: Generally, I have my clients warm up on the rower, treadmill, etc…for several minutes, then they perform 4-8 dynamic stretches, 10 reps each stretch, covering all the major muscle groups and joint areas of the body.