Dave Marsh, personal trainer and nutrition adviser at Fifth Dimension, shares weekly fitness tips with SNJ readers. He has been in the fitness industry for three years.
Q: WHEN and how should I stretch before and after workouts? What are the different types of stretches?
A: It doesn’t matter how safe we are when we’re performing our exercises, injury potential is still there if our muscles aren’t in the best condition. Tissue quality is important, and stretching, when applied correctly, can improve that quality.
In general, there are two major types of stretching – dynamic and static stretching.
If we add these to the right places in our workout, we can really get the most out of our sets and reps, and stay injury-free.
Dynamic Stretching — Pre-Workout Dynamic stretching involves putting muscles through their full range of motion by way of mobilising the joints to which the muscles attach.
Good examples of the movements would be leg swings, arm circles, cradle walks, Spiderman walks, and karaoke.
The benefits of doing dynamic stretching are many.
Our goal is to make our nervous system get to a point that it’s fired up, and ready to move some heavy weights.
We don’t want to take it the other way and subdue it when there is work to be done.
Dynamic stretching will elevate the muscles’ temperature, and ramp the nervous system up so the body’s right where it needs to be when your first set begins.
Static Stretching — Mid- and Post-Workout The typical “stretch – and – hold” method is simply known as static stretching.
Since static stretching can act to dull the nervous system, we can use that to our advantage during our workouts.
If we notice a muscle getting too involved in an exercise when it’s not welcome, we can strategically static stretch between sets to lower their nervous involvement and give more of the work to the wanted muscles. For example, quads can dominate a squat and not leave room for the glutes and hamstrings, so we’d stretch the quads.
Of course, when the nervous system’s stimulation is no longer a factor, a good static stretch to all major muscle groups at the end of a workout is in order.