Pre-Workout Stretching: A Few Tips to Keep in Mind
September 13th, 2017 by Synergy
I have many patients in the office ask me, “Is there anything I can do before and after my workout to help me feel better or reduce my injury risk?” 99% of the time, the answer to that question is a definitive yes. Although depending on each individual person’s goals and exercise routine, this can vary. Today we’ll be talking about pre-workout stretching and how it can help you feel your best during and after your workout.
Let us begin by differentiating between the four types of stretching: static, dynamic, ballistic and Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Static stretching requires holding a stretch in a challenging (but comfortable) position for a period of time, typically anywhere between 10 to 30 seconds. The most common form of stretching, static stretching is generally considered safe and effective for improving overall flexibility. However, static stretching is not especially beneficial for improving a person’s range of motion (ROM) for functional movement and can actually decrease a person’s speed and strength.
Dynamic stretching refers to any stretch that requires moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly. Examples of dynamic stretching include arm circles or jumping jacks. Although dynamic stretching requires more coordination than static stretching, it is popular among athletes and physical therapists due to its ability to improve functional ROM and increase athletic performance.
Ballistic stretching uses more strenuous bouncing movements to push your body beyond its normal ROM. Standing lunges are an example of a ballistic stretch. Unlike static stretches that are performed slowly and gradually, ballistic stretching works muscles much farther and faster. People often confuse ballistic stretching with dynamic stretching. However, they are quite different since dynamic stretching doesn’t push muscles past their normal ROM or require bouncing or jerking motions.
For people who really want to improve their flexibility, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching is ideal. PNF stretching relies on reflexes to produce deeper stretches intended to increase a person’s ROM. PNF stretching assists in pushing a muscle to its limit, which triggers the inverse myotatic reflex, a protective reflex that helps calm the muscle to prevent injury. We recommend speaking with one of the professionals at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ before attempting PNF stretching for the first time to ensure you are performing the stretch correctly.
When it comes to creating a pre-workout stretching routine, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, static stretching can help improve flexibility, but it may also impede your performance by suppressing the central nervous system and relaxing the muscle spindles. That’s why we recommend performing static stretching after your workout is complete, not before. Dynamic stretching before a workout is preferred for anyone warming up for anything sports related or activities that require more physical exertion. While ballistic stretching can be beneficial for more athletic people, it carries a risk of potential injury and should not be attempted by everyone.
Keep in mind that every person (and every body) is different. To help pick the right stretching regimen for you, it’s important to identify your fitness goals and thoroughly understand your athletic capability. Stay tuned for more blogs in the future about stretching including tips for your post-workout cool-down and additional types of stretching. For more information or to schedule an in-person consultation, please contact Synergy™ Sports Wellness Institute today or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ for more tips, news, and updates.