You probably already know a lot about the importance of stretching, especially before and after a run or other exercise. Stretching can both assist in preventing an injury pre-workout and help muscles recover after one. However, you may not know that there actually are different types of stretching: dynamic and static stretching. But what is static stretching?
What Is Static Stretching?
The static stretching definition is that of stretching exercises that typically are done after your workout, and it involves stretches that you hold in place for a period of time without movement. According to that static stretching definition, this stretching exercise allows your muscles to loosen up while simultaneously increasing flexibility and range of motion.
In simple terms, post-workout stretches generally are referred to as static stretches. Static stretching requires you to hold those stretches a little longer than you might if you were getting warmed up at the beginning of a workout.
Benefits of Static Stretching
A static stretch is an extremely important element of your exercise routine. If you skip that static exercise post-run or post-workout, you’re practically throwing away chances to increase flexibility and range of motion, as well as to decrease pain and stiffness. Stretching after a workout offers many other benefits, including those mentioned.
- Increased flexibility and range of motion. After a workout, your muscles are warmed up and still ready to go. Capitalize on that and do some post-workout stretches to further maximize your range of motion in any joint you target. The more static flexibility and range of motion you have, the easier it is to move around and complete tasks.
- Less pain and stiffness. Have you ever ended a workout, went to bed and woken up the following morning stiff and sore? Static stretching can help you avoid that feeling. Static exercises are effective in reducing these side effects of a good workout.
- Decreased stress. Did you know that stress has physical side effects, and one of them is tense, tight muscles? Stretching your muscles helps relax your body. Combine it with deep breathing or meditation, and you can potentially relax your mind, too.
- Increased blood flow. Circulation is important, as blood flow is vital to each and every organ, muscle, and cell in your body. Plus, increased circulation has been shown to help speed up the healing and recovery process.
How Is It Different From Other Stretches?
The other main type of stretching is dynamic stretching, and the difference between the two types of stretches is that dynamic stretches typically are done before a workout. Dynamic stretches often involve movement that helps warm up your muscles and prepare your body for the exercise ahead.
Sometimes, according to Healthline, dynamic stretches look similar to the type of workout an athlete is about to do. “For instance, a swimmer may move their arms in circles, and a runner may jog in place before starting their run,”
How to Include Static Stretches in Your Workout Routine
The great thing about static stretching is that it’s a great way to cool down, relax a bit, and give some love to the muscles you’ve just worked. Save your static stretching for the end of a workout — the dynamic stretches are to be done at the beginning. Static stretching examples include a leg stretch (such as the hamstring), groin stretch, and arm and shoulder stretch. Here is a list of stretches to get you started.
Different Static Stretches
There are more than a dozen static stretches you can try but start first with these five, which will target different areas of the body. For reference, visit Active’s website to see an example stretching photo for each described stretch.
- Arm and Shoulder Stretch. Plain and simple, this stretch targets exactly what it is named for. To do this stretch, put your right arm out and across your body and tuck the elbow of your right arm into your left, pulling toward your body. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Groin Stretch. Also known as the “butterfly” stretch, you probably did this in elementary school physical education classes. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet touching. Then, while holding your toes, lean your upper body forward by bending from the hips.
- Hamstring Stretch. The more flexible you become, the easier this stretch will be to do. Sit on the ground and extend your right leg straight out in front of you while touching your left foot to your right knee. Bend forward and hold your toes with your right hand. If you cannot reach your toes, modify the stretch by holding your shin and move your hold farther down your leg each time you do it.
- Side Stretch. Going down the list of stretches — or up, rather — is the side stretch, during which you should stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Reach one arm over your head to the opposite side, holding for about 10 seconds before repeating on the other side of your body. You should feel a gentle stretch in your sides.
- Back Twist Stretch. Sit down and place your right leg over your left, with your right foot on the ground. Twist your body, so your left elbow makes contact with your right knee. Repeat on the opposite side.
Of course, don’t assume these five static stretches cover the gamut. Active suggests multiple static stretching exercises you can do. Try these after your work out, depending on the type of workout you’ve had. Do the leg stretches if you were running; similarly, try some arm and back stretches if you were weightlifting.
At the end of the day, regardless of the workout or exercise, you participate in, stretching both before and after is vital to your routine. Dynamic stretches are more active ones that occur pre-workout, while static stretches are often fairly motionless and best to do after a workout for optimal recovery. If you find that you cannot perform a certain stretch with the best form or flexibility, don’t be afraid to modify it to meet your needs. After all, the more you stretch, the more flexible you become.