To stretch or not to stretch, that is the question. But what is the answer? This topic is one of the oldest debates in the fitness realm. There are countless articles, studies, and views on this topic. In this week’s blog I will share with you some of the information that I feel is useful and compelling.
Before I get into the whole “debate,” let’s briefly go over a few main different types of stretches.
The most commonly used stretch is a Static Stretch. Static Stretching is holding a particular stretch while your body is in a state of rest for thirty seconds to two minutes. The concept behind this type of stretch is that the muscle being stretched will be more relaxed, and will then therefore be able to elongate to a greater length.
Dynamic Stretching is a type of stretch that utilizes movement rather than holding the stretch. Dynamic stretching has been shown to increase range of motion by sending blood and oxygen to the muscle. Some popular Dynamic stretches include: High Knees (running while bringing your knees above your waist), Butt Kicks (running while kicking your heels towards your glutes), skipping, and lunges, just to name a few.
Active Isolated Stretching
Active Isolated Stretching method was developed in the eighties by Aaron Mattes, which is as follows:
Isolate the muscle to be stretched.
Hold each stretch for no more than two seconds.
Repeat the stretch eight to 10 times.
Exhale on the stretch; inhale on the release.
So now back to the question, to stretch or not, and which method should be used?
Pierre Barrieu, the strength and conditioning coach of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team explains: “When you start stretching muscle fibers, what lubricates them is heat, which comes from the warm-up. Stretching muscles cold can do more damage than good.” Based on Barrieu’s thoughts, static stretching is not useful and can be harmful.
In a study performed at Oregon State University, participants did a 5-minute warm-up on a treadmill then stretched by static, dynamic or no stretch at all. When stretching was completed the participants performed various jumps. The study showed that those who warmed-up and then performed dynamic stretching, performed better at jump height, sprint speed and agility.
Active Isolated Stretching has been proven over the last few decades as an extremely effective method that many athletes currently use. It allows pain free stretching, great flowing of blood, oxygen and nutrients, and a method that avoids over stretching by activating the myoatic reflex.
So there you have it, a brief synopsis of stretching. For what it is worth, I personally prefer a dynamic stretch pre-workout, with a static stretch post workout. What do you prefer when it comes to stretching?