Static Stretching to Improve Flexibility
Static stretching is an excellent way to improve your range of motion, and thus your flexibility. These routines can be performed as a stretching-only routine, or as part of a workout (pre- or post-workout). There are varying opinions on the best time for stretching, before or after a workout, and we will cover that as well.
Stretch to a point of discomfort (but not pain), and hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Your muscle can be stretched by anchoring to a wall, pole, or other fixed object, or you can stretch without anchoring.
When it comes to stretching any muscle, Rule #1 is to never workout or flex a cold muscle. You only stretch a “warm” muscle.
Stretching a muscle without first warming up can result in injury or a strained muscle. You can warm-up your muscles by doing a few minutes of light cardio, such as jumping jacks or jogging in place.
Workout injuries are nearly always the result of over-exertion on cold muscles and joints….and they are generally avoidable with proper warm-up and stretching.
Take time to properly stretch – you will save yourself so much aggravation!
Static Stretching – Before or After Your Workout?
There has been much debate the past several years regarding the best time for this type of stretching – before or after your workout? The old school of thought, 20 years ago, was stretch before your workout to “loosen up your muscles.”
The fitness community, along with a lot of scientific research, has progressed a great deal since those days. So where are we now?
Most fitness experts today agree that static stretching should be performed after your workout when your muscles are completely warmed up. This reduces the chance of muscle strains and tears.
The proven workout process to warm and protect your muscles and joints as part of your workout routine is as follows:
- Light Cardio Warm-up – Do light to moderate cardio to warm up your muscles. You want to increase the temperature of the muscle and increase the blood flow to the muscle. This warm-up allows the muscle to both contract and relax more effectively.
- Dynamic stretching – This is best performed after the light cardio warm-up, but prior to any static work, and consists of lunges, squats, neck rotations, etc.
- Workout Routine – Cardio Workout or Resistance Training
- Static Stretching – See below.
A Slight Variation from Consensus Opinion
I have one slight variation that I have always performed as part of my pre-workout warm-up. I do some very light static stretches prior to my workout, along with dynamic stretches.
During my experience with various workout routines, I have always avoided injury when doing light static stretches before my workouts. There have been times during when I did not do any static work (only dynamic), and 2 or 3 of these times I strained muscles. Nothing to where I was laid out for three months, but just those annoying, nagging strains.
So this is the routine I follow, and this is what works for me. I would recommend you follow the wisdom of…
- Cardio warm-up (5 minutes just to warm the muscles and get the blood flowing)
- Dynamic stretch with some very light static
- Static stretch
The most important thing is to never stretch cold muscles. This is the most frequent way that people are injured in the gym, or anytime performing workouts. Always get your blood flowing with light cardio, as this will warm and loosen your muscles.
Static Stretching Exercises
The following links will provide you with specific routines to improve your flexibility: