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Woman doing cardio stretches or stretches before running.

Smart stretching

July 23, 2013

Stretching is often ignored as unimportant, especially by younger athletes who may not feel the effects when they neglect this vital part of exercising. Experienced coaches and personal trainers will insist on stretching before and after a practice session, but if the athlete attends a workout alone, he or she may forego stretching altogether. Even those who do stretch regularly often take the wrong approach, because they lack a proper understanding of the science behind it. Whether you’re a gym-goer or a gym-owner, these tips will help lower the chance of injuries and may improve your overall health, including musculoskeletal range of motion and circulation. Static vs. dynamic You may often see people stretching just before using all manner of commercial workout equipment. Whether it’s a treadmill or a chest press machine, it’s important to understand the difference between the two different sorts of stretching: static and dynamic. The names are indicative of how they work – static stretching is done at a relative standstill, by prolonging a stretch while remaining in the same position. This is the sort of stretching that most people are familiar with, and what most will do before they work out. However, Men’s Health advises against this. Static stretching before taking on physical exercise can cause the opposite of the intended effect by increasing the risk of a pulled muscle or similar injury. This is because the motions involved may forcibly relax the muscle being stretched, making it temporarily weakened. As such, if you were to statically stretch your hamstrings shortly before starting a run, you would increase your risk of a strain or pull by leaving it in a weak state before even starting. So what is the solution to this problem? Dynamic stretching, or stretching done in a compound movement more similar to the exercise you are about to perform. The majority of dynamic stretches are movements that can be performed as bodyweight exercises, like push-ups or lunges. They condition your body for heavier stress by stretching your muscles more quickly, whereas static stretching is slower and focused on deepening the fixed position. Of course, this can help create long-term flexibility, which is excellent for any athlete – it just shouldn’t be relied on for a pre-exercise warm-up. Do some lunges or jump rope before you use your gym’s commercial treadmill, and you’ll get better results. Explore the different types of dynamic stretches before your next workout, and try to stretch statically twice a day for a few minutes. Equipment like the TRUE Stretch cage will optimize your stretch, so use it before you leave the gym. Even when your schedule gets busy, static stretches can be done at virtually any point in your day – start stretching in your home, office and gym and you may start seeing results faster than you think.