To stretch or not to stretch?
October 27, 2017
Throughout my 17 plus years as a doctor of chiropractic and decades as a fitness coach, I've heard the same questions over and over regarding stretching.
"When should I stretch?"
"What's a good stretch for my back?"
"How long should I hold a stretch?"
I've also heard this statement a million times…
"I injured my back last week. I thought that I'd try stretching for a few days before calling. Now it's worse than ever!"
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Stretching comes in many forms and serves different purposes. I like my patients and fitness students to think of stretching as a toolbox with a wide variety of tools that all have a specific purpose. You want to use the right tool for the right job.
What is stretching? Stretching can be defined as the application of force to muscles and tendons in order to increase their length. The desired outcome is to experience an increase in range of motion (ROM), decrease stiffness, and reduce soreness.
In order to achieve the desired outcome, it's very important to understand what your best "stretching tools" are and when to use them. There are numerous forms or categories of stretching. If I cover them all, this article will "stretch" on forever. For practical purposes, I'll break this down into two basic styles and explain when to apply either one.
Static Stretching: This style of stretching is what most people are familiar with. The name itself implies little or no movement. You move your body into a specific position and hold it for a period of time. This type of stretching seems to be the most commonly practiced and taught. Static stretching can be very effective for increasing flexibility and range of motion. It can also be very relaxing and meditative. Yoga is a good example of this. A properly developed program of static stretches are good medicine for back pain, neck pain and even high blood pressure. The best time to perform static stretching exercises are late in the morning after you've been up for a while, post workout, or before bedtime. Static stretching (upon awakening) may cause serious muscle pulls due to reduced circulation of blood to major muscles. Never perform static stretching exercises before a workout or twenty four hours prior to an athletic competition. Studies show that static stretching can reduce your overall performance by up to 20 percent and you'll be more susceptible to injury.
Motion-based or Dynamic Stretching: This is where I live, both as a doctor of chiropractic and as a strength coach. This is what my SPINEFIT "STRENGTH 'N MOTION" class is all about. Dynamic-style stretching incorporates stretching with movement. It improves ROM, reduces stiffness, reduces soreness and aids in recovery. It can be intense or meditative. Dynamic-style stretching can improve breathing and digestion, decrease blood pressure, mobilize scar tissue, strengthen your core and spine…plus so much more! Dynamic stretching methods can be performed almost any time and shows no evidence of decreased athletic performance or increased rate of injury.
Don't stretch first thing upon waking. Wait 45 minutes.
Dynamic Stretching can be done almost any time.
You can do Static Stretching following intense activity — never before.
Don't stretch through a new injury, you'll probably make things worse.
Never perform Static Stretching within a 24-hour period prior to intense training or sporting event. Your performance will suffer.
Don't force your body through any stretch. When it comes to stretching follow this one principle. Don't make it happen, allow it to happen!
SPECIAL EVENT: Join me at Fitness Evolution this Saturday, Oct. 28, at 10:15 a.m. for my SPINEFIT "STRENGTH N' MOTION CLASS". This class is FREE! You do not need to be a member. Just make sure that you check in at the front desk to sign a waiver form. If you have any questions, please contact me at 530-544-4400 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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