We’ll be talking about static vs dynamic stretching today to figure out what they’re best suited to.
I would say that it all depends on what the goal of the stretching is. Let me explain why.
Benefits of dynamic stretching
One of the benefits of dynamic stretching is that it serves as an excellent warm-up tool.
That’s because you exert quite a bit of energy and with these movements. As a result, your blood circulation will increase, as will your body temperature. This way, your body is ready to perform at a high intensity level.
Your muscles will loosen up over time if you stretch to your limits. This leads to an increased range of motion in the joints, tendons, and muscles.
Your joints and muscles will become looser due to the stretching. This means your muscles can contract to their full range of motion much easier.
This lends itself to sports, where we need to deliver a maximum amount of force as quickly as possible. Examples of sports where such explosive power is required are soccer or Olympic weightlifting.
Sport specific warm up
Performing these sport specific stretches is a great way to get your body ready for the sport that is about to follow.
This is due to the fact that athletics are basically a sequence of continuous dynamic motions.
Improving motor skills and nervous system
These stretches are often sport specific. That means that a dynamic warm up frequently tries to mimic the movements which the sport requires as closely as possible.
This way, we can drill the motions that are needed before we perform our particular sport.
We can use these exercises as a way to practice our motor skills because these movements are sport specific.
Muscle imbalances are typically the cause of poor posture.
Stretching and strengthening these specific problematic muscles that cause that bad posture is required in order to get the proper alignment of the muscles and joints.
Improves blood circulation
Stretching involves spending energy by moving your body. Thus, increasing our blood flow by the blood vessels opening up.
A good blood circulation is important for our general health. It prevents diseases such as getting strokes, heart failures, and arrhythmias.
Aids to decrease stress
Stretching, and exercising in general helps to decrease the stress we’re experiencing.
Our muscles will usually tighten up when we’re feeling a lot of stress. This is precisely where dynamic stretching comes into place.
Try to focus on places such as the neck, your shoulders, and your upper back that are typically affected by tension.
Disadvantages of dynamic stretching
Less effective at increasing range of motion
One of the disadvantages of dynamic stretching is that there are other stretching methods that are more effective at increasing the range of motion of our muscles, such as static stretching, for instance.
This especially true if you need to be very flexible for sports like ballet or gymnastics.
Note that dynamic stretching can still play an important role as a warm-up.
Not the safest form of stretching
The risk for acquiring trauma might increase since the movements are performed dynamically and at a moderate to high pace.
This leaves less room for error compared to static stretching. You can also take the stretch too far, which can lead to injuries.
Can be tiresome
Performing too many stretching exercises can tire you out, peculiarly since dynamic stretching involves performing active movement patterns.
While being exhausted at the end of a workout isn’t bad, and sometimes even desirable, it isn’t good since a warm-up is designed to prepare your body for physical activity, not to tire you out. That means you should never perform your stretches and warm-up to the point of fatigue, since it’ll impact your training negatively.
Benefits of static stretching
If flexibility is your goal, then performing a static stretch, preferably after a workout, is your best bet. That’s because performing static stretches before working out has a negative effect on our strength.
Statically stretching after playing sports helps to release lactic acid from our muscles which allows us to recover at a faster rate after training.
This allows us to perform our next workout faster than if you hadn’t done any stretching exercises after playing sports.
Releasing lactic acid from our muscles also prevents them from cramping up when exercising.
Decreased risk of injury
One of the benefits of static stretching is the reduced risk of injury since it is a slow paced stretching style where you take your time to ease into the movement rather than using brute force, or performing explosive movements.
This leaves more room for error so to speak when compared to dynamic stretching.
This means that it’s perfect for people recovering from an injury, but also for those who have more wear and tear on their body due to advanced age.
Suitable for all ages
Not everyone is flexible like a cat or (unfortunately) in the best shape of their life.
Luckily, it’s typically incredible safe to perform static stretching exercises.
It’s adjustable from individual to individual. Just take on a comfortable position that you can manage, and hold it for a couple of seconds without straining yourself too hard.
Increased blood flow
Engaging in any movements increases the blood flow through the body. Thus, even something as “simple” as stretching helps to pump the blood more effectively through your system.
That’s because our muscles press on the arteries that are present in our body. This consequently releases chemicals that expend the arteries (vasodilation) so more blood can flow through.
Improves coordination and balance
Static stretching can help to improve our coordination since we need to employ multiple muscles at once in sync.
Especially for the more complex stretches when standing. That’s because some stretches involve standing on one foot rather than two. This quite obviously requires a lot of stabilizing action of our ankle muscles, and even our hip muscles.
Disadvantages of static stretching
Decreases your maximum strength output when performed right before strength training
Performing a static warm up right before lifting weights temporarily decreases the strength you can deliver because it relaxes the tendons and muscles that are being stretched.
The strength a muscle can generate is the biggest at the muscle’s resting length. This means that artificially lengthening the muscle with stretching (or shortening the muscle for that matter) decreases the amount of maximum force which that muscle can generate.
Increased risk of injury when performed right before playing sports
Passive stretches before working out increases the risk for physical injuries since it temporarily decreases our strength.
Naturally, our strength plays an essential part to stabilize our bodies during exercise. That’s why this drop in strength can cause us to acquire trauma that we wouldn’t have had if we didn’t stretch statically before training.
Can take a long time if you want to perform a full-body stretching routine
Static stretching can be quite time intensive compared to dynamic stretching because you are required to hold the stretch for a considerable amount of time awhile simultaneously needing multiple sets for the stretching to be effective.
This means it can be difficult to perform a good static stretching routine when you are short on time.
Not advised as a warm-up routine
Your body cools down when performing static stretching as a warm-up because you don’t exert much physical energy since it’s not very physically demanding.
This means that a static warm up is not suitable for preparing your body optimally for the physical activity that is at hand.
That’s why dynamic stretching before playing sports is advised.
Static vs dynamic stretching comparison
If we compare static vs dynamic stretching, then we can conclude that dynamic stretching is better before you start exercising to warm up, and static stretching to cool down after training or to lengthen the muscles.
If you need to be statically flexible for your sport, like for let’s say ballet or gymnastics, then increasing flexibility and range of motion of the muscles involved are very important.
In these specific cases, performing static stretching exercises are more appropriate to lengthen your muscle length.
However, when warming up for both ballet and gymnastics, dynamic stretching exercises would still be preferable.
If you play a sport where maximum and/or explosive strength is essential, like weightlifting for example, then I would advise performing dynamic stretching exercises as a warm-up right before exercising.
That’s because performing a static warm up right before exercising will have negative effects on strength and endurance training, while a dynamic warm up will not.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What is dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching can be defined as movement of the joints and muscles through their range of motion.
This means you are going through a movement, and this motion is the part which we call stretching. These movements are often repeated numerous times in order to get the blood flowing through the body and to make sure the muscles are loose and relaxed.
It’s typically used as a warm-up routine before commencing sports activities.
The motions that are used are regularly in alignment with or mimicking movements that the sport or physical activity requires.
These dynamic stretching exercises get the blood pumping through the muscles, which in turn helps to warm up the body in addition to the muscles. A couple of dynamic stretching exercises are ‘high kicks’ or ‘knee to chest’.
What is static stretching?
Static stretching involves getting in a position where the stretch is then held for a certain period of time. Typically, this holding phase varies between 15 and 30 seconds. The stretching exercises are then repeated multiple times to make sure the muscles are loose and relaxed. This stretching phase is frequently repeated 3 to 5 times.
Examples of static stretching exercises are touching your toes while standing up, or hamstring stretches. These stretches are usually performed by using your own muscles to hold the different positions. This is called active stretching.
Another person or external force like a wall is sometimes used to hold the position. This is called passive stretching because it doesn’t involve their own muscles to hold the position.
My advice would be to perform a static stretching routine after your workout or on rest days, and performing a dynamic warm up routine right before working out.
That’s because dynamic stretching is in general a much more effective way to prepare your body for physical activity.
This way, you get the benefits from both forms of stretching, while negating most of their usual disadvantages.