Dynamic vs static stretching: what's better?
9 Jun 2023 09:16AM
Dave Gordon - Boxing Activist
When it comes to our workouts, stretching is usually our least favourite part. You may do a few quick stretches to get yourself limber before diving into the ‘real’ workout. But, as we all know, it’s important to take time when you stretch to prevent injury and boost your fitness performance.
But static stretching or dynamic? We’re here to help you decide.
What’s the difference?
Static stretches, or passive stretches, are those static holds most of us are familiar with. It could be things like the quad stretch, calf stretch or toe touch. These types of stretches encourage your tissues and muscles to relax which allows them to lengthen. By doing this, static stretches increase your active range of motion and flexibility. Both of which are key for preventing injury.
On the other hand, dynamic stretches (or ‘active stretches’) are those which involve a little bit of additional movement. These could be bodyweight squats, thoracic rotations or inchworms. When you’re performing dynamic stretches you’re not only lengthening your muscles as you do in static stretching but you’re also rehearsing the movement patterns that you are about to start. Dynamic stretching activates muscles, increases your blood flow and also elevates your heart rate. That’s in addition to increasing your flexibility and range of motion.
General advice based on research suggests that dynamic stretches are often better before your workout. That’s because they prepare your body to get moving even more. They actually ‘warm up’ your body, as opposed to static stretches that put your body in a better state of readiness.
Dave, our Boxing Activist says: “There is ongoing debate around the use of static and dynamic stretching when it comes to performance. The current evidence tends to suggest that utilising a dynamic warm up sequence prior to your workout is most beneficial to performance, especially when you build up to movements that mimic the subsequent pattern. So for example, building up to some low resistance overhead squats prior to a heavy squat based session, will aid in the preparation of the relevant joints and musculature. Whilst static stretches are beneficial, due to the fact that you are taking a joint and relevant muscles through to near end range, research suggests that done prior to a workout, this can lead to a reduction in strength and power. With that said, these movements are probably best left until after you’ve completed your hard work, and are trying to decompress and cooldown.”
Research also shows that static stretching may hinder your performance in some ways. If you’re holding passive stretches for over a minute before your workout, your ability to produce force and power is reduced.
But, that’s not to say that you can’t do static stretches before you work out. Incorporate them into your warm up but keep the holds under 60 seconds.