Flexibility routines and stretching- When and how?
One of the most common questions that comes up is do I stretch before or after my workout?
What should I do for warm-up? How long should I spend stretching and when should I do it?
First, let's address the research on stretching and flexibility training. Many of you may have heard
that stretching prior to a workout is good. True or False?
It depends on the type of stretching you are doing. There are three main types of stretching-
Dynamic Stretching: This involves moving the body through ranges of motion in a fashion similar
to the way your body might move during the workout. During this type of stretching you have two
types- General and Specific (also known as warm-up)
General Warm-up would be when we go for a slow jog, row 500 on the rower, or even maybe do
some squats to get the body and blood moving.
Specific movements or specific warm-up/dynamic stretching is when you start to work the specific
joints involved in the work out or the movements. An example of this would be the Burgener warm-
up being done before an Olympic lifting session.
Static Stretching. Static stretching is stretching done in one position holding for about 15-30
seconds. The intention of this type of stretching is to stretch not only the muscles, but to enhance
tendon flexibility and sometimes even joint flexibility. This is good for POST workout stretching to
help the body recover and increase blood flow in a more relaxed state. Often times this type of
stretching if done prior to a workout, stretching a muscle beyond the optimal length tension
Another way in which the tension of a muscle can vary is due to the length-tension relationship. This
relationship expresses the characteristic that within about 10% the resting length of the muscle, the
tension the muscle exerts is maximum. At lengths above or below this optimum length the tension
decreases. In practical terms a muscle will be its strongest at midpoint in its extensibility. For the
heart, you will later learn, it means the muscle will adjust its output to normal increases in blood
Ballistic Stretching. From research, this is the WORST type of stretching to do prior to ANY
warm-up. This would be rapidly bouncing as you are stretching a muscle in a static position. This
was originally intended to take the muscle out of the stretch reflex; however there are more effective
methods of completing this and they are much easier on the body!
So what about this warm-up stuff? It is better to complete dynamic stretching and general warm-up
prior to a workout; static stretching after? Research is suggesting according to the science behind it,
that static stretching can actually decrease speed strength and power for up to one hour after the
workout. This as you can see would be a negative prior to an optimal performance.