The question of the best way to stretch is clouded by so many misconceptions and conflicting studies.
Every body is different, and ultimately you must find what works best for your body, BUT through a TON of my own experience, research and working with world class running coaches, strength strainers, and physical therapists – I concur that the very BEST way to stay injury free, improve flexibility and improve your overall running efficiency is through Continuous Stretching (also known as Dynamic Stretching).
I’m the first to admit it’s tempting to skip over the warm up and stretch in order to maximize your workout time (it’s hard enough making time for that, right?). However, time to re-frame your mind on this one; I’ve learned the hard way, it’s better to shorten your workout by those 5-10 minutes to get in a proper stretch than to squeeze in those last few reps or that extra mile.
If that doesn’t convince you, here’s a fact that might:
Not stretching properly can worsen your running performance and ability before a race or workout, and cause you to be slower. That’s why growing numbers of elites have eliminated static stretching before their most important runs and replaced it with a series of dynamic stretching exercises!!
When we think of stretching, we tend to think of static stretching, correct? Ex, holding a stretch for 10-30 seconds….New research shows this causes a breakdown of the excitability of the muscle tissue. The immediate effects from static stretching actually include decreased muscle function.
Ralph Reiff, a licensed athletic trainer and director of sports performance for St. Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis, says that,
“To get a good static stretch you are asking the body on a subconscious level to relax, from a muscle-recruitment standpoint, you don’t want to turn the muscles off in a relaxed state prior to asking them to perform. The elastic energy of a tighter muscle is going to have more recoil and power than a heavily stretched muscle.”
The caveat is that simply eliminating static stretching won’t necessarily increase performance and decrease injury. This is where dynamic stretching comes in. Rather than standing in one place and forcing your muscles to stretch,
Dynamic stretching doesn’t stop at the end of the movement, rather it trains the muscles to warm up and fire the way you want them to during a series of movements.
Starting your workout with a dynamic warm-up is truly like turning the oven on to the right temperature before you put the cookies in to bake.
Before jumping into stretching cold, as little as 3-6 minutes of dynamic exercises such as bounding, jogging, jumping gets your body nice and warm, then go through your continuous stretch routine. The whole process only take about 10 minutes, and the difference in performance, and injury prevention is unmatched,
This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate static stretching for good, but better to keep it as a post-run ritual.
Bottom Line: Dynamic/Continuous stretching recruits more of the body than static stretching and has a much higher return on investment.
Dynamic Stretch Routine
Need a stretch rope? Here is the one I use – you can order it right here! (it also comes with a booklet of instructions):)
~Raising the Standard on what it means to be FIT.