Educating ourselves on how the human body is wired to work gives us advantages while enjoying the activities we love. Walking, running, or hitting a ball all require intent and a sequence of actions. Let’s break down the different types of stretching and when they are appropriate.
Every time we move we are lengthening and shortening our muscles. In our minds, we set intent for an action, then complete it to the best of our ability. We think to ourselves “Plant your feet and hit the tennis ball”, then our body will react as best as it can to set up and swing. There are a lot of factors involved with this communication and action response.
The nervous system and muscular system are intimately tied together. It is constantly registering stimulus and calculating reactions. We want our intent, reactions, and movements to all work in sync to provide successful motion. Practice makes perfect! When it comes to stretching, warm-ups, and cool downs, it is important to keep the body’s communication mechanisms in mind.
Static stretches are typically where you will choose a muscles group, set yourself in a position to “feel” a stretch, and hold that position for a period of time to get relief. Think most yoga postures and floor stretches. Classic upright static stretches will be lengthening your calf off a step, or holding onto one foot behind you to stretch your quad. Folding over to reach for your toes is a classic static hamstring stretch.
Dynamic stretches will resemble athletic activities. Lunges, reaches with your arms, squats, and light agility drills will lengthen muscles groups in an active way. A forward walking lunge lengthens the biomechanics required for walking. Exaggerating hip rotation will stretch the motions needed for your golf swing. These movements are usually very integrated and will incorporate full body movements.
In summary, remember you are telling your body what you want it to do. If you are about to go play a sport, you want the lines of communication wide open. Choose a dynamic stimulus that will warm up the motions in your sport. Static stretches will be great for relaxing, lengthening, and providing relief to tight muscles after your activities. A well-rounded exercise routine will include both forms of stretching. To maximize your benefits, think about which stretches, or actions, you will choose.
Here are a few key points to remember:
- The communication between your mind and muscles is very important. Send the right feedback for the activity you choose.
- Static stretching, or holding positions, is great for lengthening and relaxing muscle groups.
- Dynamic stretching, or actions, should resemble the activities you are participating in.
- Save static stretches for recovery
- Use Dynamic stretches for your warm-ups.
- If you have extra tight areas, static THEN dynamic before your activities is recommended.