By D.C. Cluff
You can hear the circle of children count in unison as they begin their sports’ practice, faces strained while they struggle to touch their toes. The scene is perhaps as old as youth sports itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct.
There are at least two general categories that stretching falls into: static and dynamic.
Static stretches are stationary stretches designed to elongate specific muscles (such as touching your toes), resulting in greater flexibility.
Dynamic stretches incorporate sport-specific movements, using functional-based exercises (think soccer players swinging their feet up to eye-level).
Studies have shown that warming up with static stretches actually weakens the targeted muscle group, decreasing performance without the benefit of preventing injury.
A proper warm-up increases the joints’ range of motion and loosens muscles and tendons. The best way to get this process started is with a light jog. This will warm your muscles and allow your body to use it’s oxygen in the most efficient way possible.
From there, you should step into dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches increase power, flexibility and range of motion, everything you want from your warm-up. Athletes should tailor their dynamic stretches to the sport they’re playing (exercises are easily found on the internet).
With that said, there’s no need to demonize static stretching. In fact, it still plays a crucial role in taking care of your body. Engaging in static stretching after your workout is the best way to utilize the technique. This will improve muscle interaction, maintain range of motion and keep the muscle tissue healthy.