For the longest time, it was thought that static stretching was the ultimate way to prepare for any athletic activity. As more research has been done, however, it appears that static stretching is not necessarily the best way to stretch. While static stretching is still widely used today, it seems dynamic stretching is picking up steam in the fitness industry. In all reality, both types of stretching have a time and place in your fitness routine.
Static stretching involves reaching and holding tension in certain muscles or ligaments. Static stretching can be both beneficial and detrimental depending on your level of flexibility. Athletes or lifters who are unable to hit certain positions due to being inflexible will benefit greatly from static stretching. Those who are naturally flexible, however, or those who have already worked on their flexibility will not benefit from static stretching prior to physical activity.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. The hip flexors are one body part that responds better to static stretching than to dynamic stretching, however, the hips are certainly in the minority. Static stretching, once thought to improve performance and decrease potential injuries, has actually been proven to be a detriment before physical activity. Instead, static stretching should be done away from the gym or athletic arena. Those with flexibility issues should adopt a static stretching routine in the morning and at night to improve their overall mobility.
Dynamic stretching is quite the opposite of its static counterpart. Instead of holding stretches for a long period of time, dynamic stretching uses functional movements that translate to future athletic events. Dynamic stretching is great for preparing your body for future positions it might find itself in. As mentioned before, however, if overall flexibility is the issue then a combination of both static and dynamic stretching will be necessary.
The key to proper dynamic stretching is the use of controlled movements. Leg swings, shoulder dislocations, knee raises, butt kicks, and other movements will all increase athletic performance without risking injury. Other concepts such as ballistic stretching might seem similar, however, these stretches utilize more violent movements that are not as effective. With all of the benefits of dynamic stretching, it is no wonder why so many professional and collegiate teams have adopted dynamic stretching at their primary form of mobility work.
Another aspect of dynamic stretching is foam-rolling. This new fad has taken commercial gyms by storm. Also known as myofascial release, foam-rolling involves moving your body across a large piece of foam to work out knots and other tight areas. What was once only done by masseuses and physical therapists is now available to individuals for less than $20.
A routine of foam-rolling and dynamic stretching should be more than enough to improve your mobility. However, if there are still positions you are unable to hit, some light static stretching will do the trick. The key is to warm-up with dynamic stretching and foam-rolling. By doing so, your body will be ready to take on any and all tasks in the gym, or on the field.