When you were training for sports in your P.E classes, you were most likely told to hold your hamstring and groin stretches several seconds before starting your training session. This static stretching is very popular and is a common routine in any athletes routine.
But more recently if you ask a medical professional or coach about stretching before your workout you will likely get a different answer. So why is some advice to stretch before working out and other advice is to stretch after your workout? We will cover the reasons behind this in today’s blog.
To start, there are different kinds of stretching. These are listed below:
Static Stretching: This is this most common stretching that people think of. For example, if bend over to touch your toes and hold the position, you are performing static stretching.
Passive: This is when someone else moves your body into a stretch and proceeds to hold the tension while you are relaxed.
Dynamic: This is a controlled movement into the stiff position. The best way to think about it is performing a deep squat or lunges.
Ballistic: This involves using your bodies momentum to bounce in and out of stiffness. It’s not recommended by many because of the chances of injury but is more commonly used by dancers.
PNF: This is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and describes a combination of passive stretching followed by different types of muscular contractions. If someone gets your muscle into a position, for example a hamstring stretch while you are on your back. Then asks you to contract and then relax while they push the muscle further, this is PNF.
In the past, research showed that performing static stretching before training or a competition could reduce the chances of muscular strain. This is why it is such a popular form of stretching.
But recent research is showing that static stretching can lead to a decrease in strength, speed and power. So this would lessen the athlete’s performance. But it might not be the static stretching that is the problem, rather it is the long duration someone will hold the stretch for.
Stretches for short periods of time (under 30 seconds) cause no harm to muscular performance and cause an increase in mobility, this means you can get into better technical positions when performing your lift or movement. It is when a stretch is held for 45 seconds that there is a decrease in power, speed and strength.
A test to do:
If you struggle with tightness and feel restricted you can test if you are short of what is expected of your muscles.
Place your foot 10 cm from the wall and then bend your knee to try and touch the wall without lifting your heel to do so. If you can touch your knee to the wall you have passed the test and have good ankle mobility. Working on passive stretches of 30-second holds can help to free up your calf and get to pass the test without affecting your performance.
For example, a deep goblet squat can help improve your ankle mobility before training. Hold a kettlebell on your chest and sit down into a deep squat. Hold 4 stretches for 10-30 seconds.
If you do not have good ankle mobility you will be unable to get into a good squat position and therefore will hinder your technique.
In the clinic, we work using a variety of techniques to help improve mobility in all areas of the body, including ankles. So working on your muscles and joints to help get into a good position will allow you to perform and move better day to day and during athletic performance.
Stretching prior to your workout is not a one size fits all. It will come down to you as an individual and what your body responds best to. Also, it will depend on where your weaknesses are. Your tightness can also be down to overall muscle weakness, so it could tighten up to try and stabilise the area.
To help work out what needs to be done to fix your issue and to help get you the best results contact the clinic today on 0578678904, direct message us on Facebook or book now.
Yours in Health
The Lawlor Clinic: Spine & Sport, Portlaoise, Laois