The stretches you should be doing
Updated: May 16
Putting your body under stress through workout is a must if you want to improve your fitness.
But looking after it between sessions is a must too.
Here are 4 types of stretches you should perform either before or after your sessions.
Dynamic stretches are interesting when it comes to warm up.
They involve a full range of motion (ROM) explored within control.
There is no holding time and they often mimic the exercises that will be performed during the training.
For instance, they could be swinging legs and neck or shoulders circles.
If you are doing squats this day, then you can first perform some squats with no weight but full ROM. This will help you waking up the fibers, joints and tissues that will later be put under stress.
Actively stretching means that you are performing stretches without any external help (PT, elastic band etc).
Therefore, to actively stretch a muscle, you have to target the antagonist muscle (muscle you want to stretch) by activating the agonist muscle (opposite of the antagonist).
For instance if you want to stretch your chest, you will activate your back muscles, and pull your extended arm backward. With hands facing outwards for an extra stretch.
Holding this position for 10 to 15 seconds will help you relax.
It is adviced to perform this type of stretches after exercise as studies showed that performing that them decrease power and strength.
Passive stretches are good to cool down.
In fact, they are similar to active stretches but include external help.
For the same example, if you would like to stretch your chest, you won't involve the agonist muscles (back muscles) but you'd rather use a wall, or a person that will pull you arms backwards. You will then hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds.
An external force is needed to help you relax mucles and connective tissues.
You can also use floors, elastic bands or any other equipement that sounds relevant.
This method involves a higher ROM and is therefore usefull to develop your flexibility.
PNF stretch (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) is defined as an assisted stretching to increase ROM and flexibility.
In fact, it is a mix between passive and isometric stretches.
For instance, if you would like to work on your hamstring flexibility you would first lie on your back. A partner will then extend one of your leg and push it towards you untill you feel a stretch in your hamstring. From there, you will activate them and push to exerce a force against your partner. Hold the effort for 4 to 5 seconds and relax. You are now able to push the stretch further.
PNF stretches and other types of stretching are good ways to look after your muscles. Exercising put your body under a positive stress that will allow it to create adaptation to be able to answer the same stress again.
However, a good recovery is a must. Nutrition, hydration, sleep and stretch will help you keep an healthy body over time.