Most people today perform a static stretching routine after a brief warm-up and often after a brief cool-down at the end of a workout. Static stretching calls for holding specific stretches for a period of time, usually 10 to 60 seconds, whereby the muscles are lengthened, with only minor discomfort. This type of stretching does have some drawbacks however. When used prior to a workout or competition, static stretching has shown to be ineffective or even detrimental to performance , especially when it comes to explosive movements or strength output. Used after a workout or competion, static stretching can be helpful in lengthening muscles after a period of constant contracting, thus easing tightness and returning your flexibility.
The use of dynamic stretching before a workout or competiton is now being used by most top level athletes. In this type of stretching, the warm up and stretching routine can be combined. Using a series of stretches that mimic sport specific movements, such as butt kicks for running, or leg kicks and punches for martial arts. Dynamic stretches prepare the body for exactly the type movements it will encounter in the coming workout, while maintaining an elevated core body temperature. Dynamic stretching also helps the nervous system and motor ability better than static stretching does. Numerous studies have shown vast improvement in performance over time, when dynamic stretching is used before a workout or competition vs. no improvement or even detrimental effects from static stretching before a workout or competition.
In additon to static stretching and dynamic stretching there are other forms of stretching such as AIS ( active isolated stretches ) and PNF ( propioceptive neuromuscular facilitation ). The latter being designed to be done with assistance from someone trained in this area, such as an athletic trainer or a physical therapist. There also is SFMR ( self myofacial release ) or what is commonly known as using a foam roller or stick. This is a highly beneficial method of reducing injury, especially injuries like iliotibial band or tight calf muscles. SFMR can be done unassisted and is almost as effective as any sports massage you will get.
In conclusion, the need to stretch as well as warm up and cool down for injury prevention and performance enhancement is crucial. A warm up routine of dynamic stretching using sport or activity specific movements, coupled with a cool down and then static stretching is a great way to reduce or nearly eliminate many sports injuries and pain. Couple these two activities with a self myofacial massage using a foam roller or stick, and you will feel and perform much better.
As a certified personal trainer, I can help you incorporate these tactics into your training program for a successful and easier fitness journey. Steve