Active stretching is a form of stretching in which you use the strength of a certain muscle group to lengthen or stretch an opposing muscle group. Yoga is a great example in which certain poses require activation or contraction of certain muscle groups as a way to stretch the opposing muscle.
Active stretching can help increase range of motion and is a great warm-up activity before initiating high-intensity exercise or sports competition.
Dynamic stretching is movement-based stretching. It requires working muscles through a range of motion to increase flexibility and mobility. Unlike static and active stretching, these poses are not held.
Dynamic stretching is also a great form of stretching to warm up muscle groups before initiating high-intensity exercise or sports competition.
STARTING A STRETCHING ROUTINE
If you’re new to stretching, it’s important to start slow. Flexibility exercise via a stretching routine can be started at any age! And improvements can be seen as early as 3 weeks if performing a stretching routine regularly.
When starting a stretching routine, it’s important to keep note of a few things:
1. When stretching, major muscle groups around the shoulders, chest, neck, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles should be targeted.
2. You should engage in a stretching routine at minimum 2-3x/week.
3. When beginning, hold static stretches for 10-30 seconds. But the goal is to hold each stretch for a minimum of 60 seconds.
4. Repeat stretches 2-4 times to get optimal benefits!
The type of stretching you should incorporate will largely depend on your experience and fitness level, but at some point, every form should be utilized.
When starting, warm up your muscles with foam rolling and perform 5-6 different static stretches. Holding each one for at least 10 seconds, and gradually build your way up to 60 seconds.
Start by allocating 5 minutes of stretching to a warm-up or cool down after your regular exercise routine. On days you don’t exercise, still spend about 5-10 minutes stretching when you have free time to loosen up tension in your body.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO STRETCH?
You can stretch at any time in the day! However, muscles tend to be tighter when we just wake up so it’s important to warm up with a light jog or dynamic movements before getting into static stretching if choosing to stretch first thing in the morning.
Stretching at night and before bed can also help improve sleep! Some studies have shown that a light stretching routine in the late evening or right before sleep helped improve sleep quality in people with mild sleep disorders.
HEALTH RISKS OF STRETCHING: CAN YOU OVERDO IT?
Stretching involves lengthening a muscle to its furthest point. Therefore, a muscle can sometimes be stretched beyond this point, and without proper preparation, it can lead to overstretching. While this is unlikely, it is still possible.
To prevent overstretching from occurring, make sure you properly warm up either through dynamic motions, light activity, or foam rolling before engaging in any intense form of stretching. Forcing muscles that are tight into a lengthened position very quickly can cause micro-tears in your muscles. This will cause inflammation and injury and limit mobility for some time. Something that would be counterproductive to improving flexibility!
Stretching is an important aspect of any fitness routine whether you’re an elite-level athlete or starting an exercise program for the first time. Improving flexibility has various health benefits that will improve quality of life and increase overall fitness and performance.
It’s never a bad idea to reach out to a certified personal trainer before beginning a flexibility or stretching program to get ideas on what will be most beneficial for you and your goals.