In my last blog post, I talked about building a proper warm-up before a training session, which brought up a few questions regarding stretching. Static stretching concentrates on relaxing the muscles so you are able to stretch them to their fullest potential. This may include a yoga class or simply 3-5 stretches before you go to bed. Once finished, muscles are relaxed and loose.
There are a few unique cases where static stretching prior to a workout may be beneficial. Gymnasts and dancers work to the very end of their range of motion and, therefore, need to place a similar stretch on their muscles during a warm-up. This is best accomplished through static stretching before a workout or performance.
However, for the vast majority of exercisers, if we are relaxed and loose prior to a workout, it is difficult to recruit a muscle, leading to potential weaknesses, imbalances, or risk of injury. Although increasing flexibility through static stretching is valuable, it directly contradicts our goal during a warm up. Our warm up primes our body for more intense activity. Instead of relaxed and loose, we want to prepare the muscles to be rapidly firing and ready to go.
Squatting is a common exercise in which lack of proper muscle activation during a warm up may pose a weakness. Lack of proper activation in the glutes may lead to a deficiency or breakdown of correct form. Before doing a squat, always think about squeezing your glutes together the entire time! This will assist in activating the glutes and offset any potential weakness that may occur.
Before a workout, focus on those exercises that mobilize, stabilize, and activate our joints and muscles. The best way to integrate static stretching into your exercise plan is to treat it as a separate session. Set aside 10-15 minutes for a static stretching routine after a workout or attend a yoga class on an active recovery day.