Stretching is one of the most important pieces of exercise. When done properly it can provide great benefits to your overall athletic performance. With this being said, many people don’t really know what stretching does or even when to do it. This is important information to know because stretching at the wrong time can have a big effect on overall performance during a workout and the injury prevention aspect of stretching. Lets go over some details that you need to know.
First are the types of stretching. There are many different kinds of stretching that you can do, but lets stick to the ones we do most often at Infinity. The two we use most often are dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic stretches are the stretches that we do during our warm-ups. These stretches involve movement during the stretch. Dynamic stretching is a great way to increase blood flow to a muscle. This is why dynamic stretching should be used at the beginning of a workout. At the beginning of the workout, it is important to have proper blood flow through the muscle to aid of overall function of the muscle and injury prevention. A few examples of dynamic stretches are walking deadlifts, forward lunges, and heel digs.
Static stretching is normally what we do after a workout here at Infinity. Static stretching is a stretch that does not involve movement throughout the stretch, hence the “static” in the title. Static stretching is used to not only relax the muscle, but also aids in increased range of motion, or ROM. It is important to do static stretching after a workout to help relax the muscle.
Many people ask why they should only do static stretching after a workout. As stated above, static stretching causes the muscle to relax. This happens due to certain structures in the muscle that activate during a stretch. We have what are called Golgi Tendon Organs, or GTO’s, located within the tendons of our muscles. These organs monitor the amount of force that is being places on the tendon. When a great deal of force, or stretch, is placed on tendon for a period of time, the GTO’s activate, causing the muscle to relax. This relaxation decreases the force on the tendon and also allows you to go even deeper into a stretch. This is why after you hold a stretch for a few seconds; the feeling of the stretch starts to dissipate. The feeling of that stretch dissipating is the GTO’s activation. Studies show that this reflex lasts up to 30 minutes post stretch. This relaxation period is why it isn’t good to static stretch before or during your workout. This relaxation inhibits your ability to initiate maximum force output through the muscle during your workout. By placing static stretching after your workout, you cause the muscle to relax, and this allows more blood flow through the muscle. Static stretching also increases your range of motion over time, and more ROM equates to lower risk of injury.
We now offer athletic stretch classes here at Infinity to help stretch you out after your workout or just when you’re feeling tight. These classes will run you through a series of stretches across your entire body to help loosen you up and increase your range of motion. If you have any questions on the classes or just stretching in general, please feel free to ask!
Tony Milano, CPT
Join us in the Studio on Tuesdays at 6:15 pm and Fridays at 9:15 am to get your weekly stretch.