Focus on Flexibility: Static Stretching

We’ve talked before on the blog about foam rolling and the benefits of self-myofascial release: decreased muscle soreness post-workout and increased range of motion through exercises over time, just to name a couple. You can check out the full blog post here.

 

But in addition, specific methods of flexibility training are vital to improving the health of our joints, overall elasticity of the muscles, and quality of movement, both in and out of the gym. While there are a number of different ways to stretch, we’re breaking down three modalities in the series: “Focus on Flexibility”.

 

What is static stretching?

Perhaps the most recognizable form of stretching, static stretching involves moving to the end point of range of motion and holding a stretch for 15-60 seconds. Research has shown that the “sweet spot” is right around the 30 second mark, but benefits are seen in practices such as Yin Yoga where stretches are held for upwards of 2 minutes! It has been shown, when the time is extended, muscles often relax further and allow for a stretch in the tendons (the tissue that connects the muscle to bone).

What are the benefits?

Most often, the overarching benefit to static stretching is an increase in flexibility. Increased flexibility allows for good circulation throughout the body, assists in maintaining proper posture, and reduces injury risk by allowing joints to move through the full range of motion without limitation to ligaments, tendons, or other connective tissues.

 

When should I incorporate it into my training?

Research is mixed, but leans toward static stretching post-training session. If you’re going to attempt a max-effort lift, it may be a wise choice to skip the stretch. Research has shown a decrease in peak power output after a static stretching session. On the other hand, if you have a habitually tight area and you’re performing a lower intensity workout that day, a short stretching session pre-workout may be beneficial. The research in this area shows neither a benefit or detriment, so experience is largely anecdotal. Overall, stretching post-workout allows for a relaxation of the muscles that were broken down during that day’s training. It not only may help improve range of motion in the future, but also decrease tightness we may feel the next day.

 

Tips and Tricks

It’s important to remember that there is a compounding effect, especially with static stretching. Stretching for 10-15 minutes per day will lead to a much greater increase in flexibility compared to stretching for a longer period of time weekly or every other week. Stretches should be held for about 30 seconds and only repeated 1-2 times per exercise.

Key Word: Static

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