By Cheyenne Solis
Flexibility training is an essential, yet often overlooked, health component to one’s fitness routine. There are numerous studies that show the short-term and long-term benefits of various types of stretching, including static stretching, ballistic stretching and dynamic stretching. There are many reasons why incorporating stretching into your workout is crucial, and that is because it can decrease stress, reduce pain and stiffness, improve health, reduce risk of injury and improve function. Here are three types of stretching techniques that you can implement before your workout routines.
When preparing to do any type of physical activity, it is vital that you prepare your muscles for the action to come. When we talk about static stretching, we’re talking about the types of stretches performed before a middle-school soccer game or at the beginning of gym class. Static stretches are performed at a slow and gradual pace, elongating a muscle and holding it for a certain amount of time. Some examples include hamstring stretches, quadriceps stretches and posterior capsule stretches. These types of stretches release tension in the muscles, making them more flexible and less susceptible to pulls and strains. These stretches are perfect for a morning routine or after a sweat session where you've cashed out your muscles.
Dynamic stretching is categorized as an active warm up, as opposed to static stretching, which is passive. This type of activity involves movement-based stretching like lunges or rotations, and in addition, drills, sprints, shuttle runs, jogging and other low-impact exercises that tightens the muscles to move joints through their full range of motion. Dynamic stretching is what you see professionals doing before a game or Olympians before a big race. The goal is to prime the body for high-impact activity, increase muscle temperature and decrease muscle stiffness. It is very popular among coaches and trainers, and is highly recommended to perform before every workout. Some examples of dynamic stretching include torso twists, walking lunges and leg swings.
Ballistic stretching involves rapid bouncing movements in a repetitive way, but it is important not to confuse ballistic stretching with dynamic stretching. While both techniques involve movement during the stretches, dynamic stretching does not push muscles past their normal range of motion and there is no bouncing/jerking incorporated. Ballistic stretching is popular among athletes, as it helps increase their range of motion and is beneficial for their performance. These types of stretches aim at moving the engaged muscles and joints past their normal range of motion in order to gradually improve an individual’s flexibility. Despite its popularity, ballistic stretching is not designed for everyone, especially beginners and amateur athletes because of its strenuous nature, so it is important to know your limits before performing these types of techniques.
There are other ways in which you can practice flexibility training safely, in addition to static and dynamic stretching, and that includes yoga. Implementing yoga techniques two to three times a week can help to increase your flexibility immensely. There are many misconceptions around having to be flexible in order to perform yoga, but it is the exact opposite that is true; doing yoga regularly is a sure way to improve your flexibility. Some easy poses that you can practice to help make your muscles longer include standing forward fold, downward dog and crescent pose.
If there is one thing you can take away from this, it is that implementing stretching before your workouts is not only valuable, but essential in delivering benefits beyond preparing your body for exercise and going as far as improving safety and performance. Just make sure you've applied your PiperWai first!