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What’s the difference between static and dynamic stretching?

January 10, 2014

While we all know the importance of warming up before a workout session and cooling down afterward, when the time comes, a majority of people would rather skip these two necessary, but underrated, aspects.

It can be a challenge when you’re pumped up for exercise to not jump right into the heart of the session, but not giving your body time to prepare for the workload ahead can be detrimental and actually set you back if you get injured. When you get to the office each morning, you probably don’t immediately dive into a big project from the start. You typically give your brain a chance to get into the right mode first. Same goes with fitness – give your muscles a chance to warm up before hitting the commercial fitness equipment. Then afterward, it’s just as important to cool down and let your body return to its normal state. A simple way to achieve a time-efficient warm up and cool down is to engage in dynamic and static stretching. What is dynamic stretching? When preparing your cold muscles for strenuous work, it’s best to begin with dynamic stretching. This includes continuous movements through a full range of motion. These motions help improve flexibility and create heat through the joints and muscles. When this happens, you begin to burn calories by getting your heart rate up and loosening muscles, so you’re ready to put stress on your body. Before starting your run on the commercial treadmills, you can warm up using dynamic stretching by doing:

  • arm swings
  • walking lunges
  • high knee marching
  • easy swing kicks
  • arm circles

What is static stretching? After a vigorous ride on commercial exercise bikes, it’s a good idea to take five minutes or so to give your body a chance to let your heart rate return to normal. As you do this, it’s a great time to engage in static stretching. This type of stretching is the most common and involves holding a stretched muscle for 15 to 30 seconds at a time. You want to extend the muscle until you feel a sensation, but not pain. Static stretching also helps improve flexibility and reduces the chances of injury and cramping. Following a successful session on the commercial ellipticals, try these static stretches as part of your cool down:

  • Hamstring stretch: kick one heel forward, point your toes toward the ceiling and bend over, reaching toward your foot.
  • Quad stretch: bend your knee and kick one foot up toward your butt, then hold with the same side hand.
  • Hip stretch: cross one ankle over the opposite knee to make a figure four, then carefully lower into a squat. You may need to hold onto a wall if you feel a bit off-balanced.