Stretching is essential to any workout routine, but not all stretches are created equal. In fact, there are two main types of stretching exercises: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches are active movements that take your joints and muscles through a full range of motion. Static stretches, on the other hand, are performed by holding a position for an extended period of time. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at static stretches: what they are, who they’re for, and how to do them correctly.
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What are Static Stretches?
Static stretches are exercises that involve assuming a position and holding it for an extended period of time. For example, a common static stretch for the hamstrings is to sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you and reach for your toes.
Static stretches are different from dynamic stretches in a few key ways.
- First, dynamic stretches are usually performed with movement, while static stretches are done without moving.
- Second, dynamic stretches generally use momentum to take your joints and muscles through a greater range of motion than static stretches do.
- Finally, dynamic stretches tend to be less precise than static stretches; that is, it’s easier to perform a dynamic stretch improperly than it is to perform a static stretch improperly.
Who Are Static Stretches For?
Static stretches are generally considered safer and more effective than dynamic stretches for people new to exercise or who haven’t been exercising regularly. That’s because they put less stress on joints and muscles and don’t require as much coordination as dynamic stretches do. As such, static stretches are often recommended as part of a warm-up or cool-down routine.
How to Do Static Stretches Properly
It’s important to note that static stretching should never be painful. If you feel pain while performing a static stretch, ease off until you find a position that is comfortable. Once you’ve found a comfortable position, hold the stretch for 30 seconds before slowly releasing it and returning to the starting position.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your static stretch routine:
Don’t Forget to Warm up First
Warming up helps increase blood flow to the muscles and prepares them for activity. A good warm-up should include 5-10 minutes of light cardio (such as jogging or walking), followed by some dynamic stretches.
Dynamic stretches are those in which you move your body through a range of motion; they’re sometimes called “active” stretches. Examples of dynamic stretches include leg swings, arm circles, and butt kickers.
Choose the Right Type of Stretch for Your Muscles
There are four types of muscle fibers:
- Slow twitch (Type I),
- Fast twitch oxidative glycolytic (Type IIA)
- Fast twitch glycolytic (Type IIB)
- Superfast twitch (Type IIX)
Slow twitch fibers are responsible for endurance activities like marathon running, while fast twitch fibers are responsible for explosive activities like sprinting or weightlifting. Most people have a mix of all four types of muscle fibers but tend to favor one type over the others.
To figure out which type of fiber you predominately have, think about your favorite type of exercise; if you enjoy endurance activities like running or cycling, you likely have more slow twitch fibers, while if you enjoy explosive activities like jump squats or sprints, you likely have more fast twitch fibers.
Once you know which type of muscle fiber you have, you can target your stretches accordingly. For example, if you have predominately slow twitch fibers, holding a deep lunge position for 30 seconds would be an appropriate static stretch, but if you have predominately fast twitch fibers, doing some quick ankle hops would be a better option.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Breathing helps relax the mind and body and allows you to get the most out of each stretch. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you slowly move into each stretch position. Once you’re in the position, continue to breathe deeply and evenly as you hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds (or 10-15 seconds if doing static stretches as part of your warm-up).
Focus on Quality over Quantity
It’s better to do a few well-executed static stretches than a bunch of halfhearted ones. If time is an issue, cut back on the number of exercises you’re doing rather than skimping on form or holding time. Remember to listen to your body; only stretch as far as is comfortable and never force anything!
Cool down & Stretch Again Post-Workout
Just as it’s important to warm up before working out, it’s also important to cool down afterward; this helps reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). A good cool down should include 5-10 minutes of light cardio followed by some static stretches targeting all major muscle groups; hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and breathe deeply throughout.
15 Static Stretches You Can Do Every Day
Now that you know how to perform static stretches properly, here are a few examples of stretches that can be done every day:
Sitting or standing up tall, slowly drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. Use your left hand to apply pressure to your head lightly and increase the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and arch your chest forward; hold for 20-30 seconds.
Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch
Reach your right arm across your body and grab onto your left shoulder. Use your left hand to help pull your right arm closer to your body; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Triceps Static Stretch
Reach your right arm overhead and bend at the elbow so that your hand is behind your head. Use your left hand to grab onto your right elbow and gently pull it closer to your head; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Standing up tall, reach your right arm overhead and bend at the elbow so that your hand is behind your head. Use your left hand to grab onto your right elbow and gently pull it closer to your head; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Extend your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing down. Use your left hand to grab onto your right fingers and gently pull them back toward your body; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Standing up tall, reach your right arm overhead and bend to the side, attempting to touch your right hand to your left foot. Use your left hand to grab onto your right elbow and gently pull it closer to your head; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Abdominal Static Stretch
Lie on your back, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the ground. Place your right hand on your stomach and slowly exhale as you use your abs to pull your navel toward your spine; hold for 25-30 seconds before switching sides.
Reclined Spinal Twist
Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Let your knees fall to the left, keeping both shoulders on the ground. Use your right hand to grab onto your left knee and gently pull it toward your chest; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Knees to Chest
Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Use both hands to grab onto your knees and pull them toward your chest; hold for 20-30 seconds.
Hip Flexor Static Stretch
Kneeling down on your right knee, place your left foot in front of you with your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your right hip; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Figure 4 Stretch
Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place your right ankle on top of your left knee and grab onto your left thigh with both hands. Gently pull your left leg toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hip; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Standing Quad Stretch
Standing up tall, grab onto your right ankle with your right hand and pull it back behind you until you feel a stretch in your quad. Use your left hand to grab onto a nearby object for balance; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Standing up tall, place your right foot on an elevated surface behind you (a bench, chair, etc.). Keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Standing up tall, place your right foot behind you with your toes pointing forward and your heel on the ground. Keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your calf; hold for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
Whether you’re new to exercise or you’ve been working out for years, including static stretching in your routine is a great way to improve flexibility and prevent injuries. Just remember to breathe deeply and relax into the stretch, holding each position for 30 seconds before releasing it slowly back into the starting position.