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Posted on 02-05-2014

Impact Your Stretching
Harvey J Roeder III D.C., M.S., A.R.T.

Stretching has become a hot topic of late in today’s athletics. Many questions arise as to the benefits or lack thereof with stretching. Is stretching really necessary? How long are you supposed to stretch? What’s the purpose of stretching? Should I stretch before or after activity? All are great questions depending on what type of stretching you are considering. There are two primary stretching techniques; static and dynamic.

Static stretching is defined as stretching the body while it is at rest; bending over and touching your toes, sit and reach, etc. This type of stretching can make a huge impact on performance in a negative way. A study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found that athletes who performed static stretches experienced a greater decrease in force in their leg muscles than those who didn’t stretch. Some studies show as much as a 30 percent decrease in muscle strength with static stretching. However, strength is not the only negative affect attributed to static stretching. A 2004 study found that acute static stretching reduced balance, reaction time, and movement times. So at this point, by performing static stretching we have decreased force, strength, balance, reaction times and movement times. Taking that into consideration, static stretching may not be the right approach to prime your muscles before activity. Now, if I have just rocked your world and you are wondering how you will make it without your 15 minute pre-activity stretching routine then there is no need to worry. I’m not saying not to stretch, just to try a different approach.

Dynamic stretching is the use of momentum in an effort to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion not exceeding one's static-passive stretching ability. Basically, dynamic stretching is using activity specific movements for warm-up. A great example would be to perform high knees, butt kicks, and strait leg marches before running activities. This will increase blood flow to the lower legs and allow you to move through similar ranges of motion that will be performed during your run. This type of stretching will effectively increase power, flexibility, and range of motion.  In one 2004 study, golfers who did dynamic warm- up exercises and practice swings increased their clubhead speed and were projected to have dropped their handicaps by seven strokes over seven weeks. Studies support similar gains in basketball, soccer, and tennis with pre-activity dynamic stretching.

 There is minimal evidence to support that stretching of any kind prevents injury. But when looking for performance gains, research points to dynamic stretching for the most benefit. A study in 2005 comparing static and dynamic stretching reported static stretching for 30 seconds neither improves nor reduces muscular performance and that dynamic stretching enhances muscular performance. There are many different dynamic stretches that could be right for you. Below you will find a list to get you started. Get with a trainer or sports physician to find out what dynamic activities would best impact your healthcare goals. 

(for the hamstrings and gluteus muscles)
Kick one leg straight out in front of you with your toes flexed toward the sky. Reach your opposite arm to the upturned toes. Drop the leg and repeat with the opposite limbs. Continue the sequence for at least six or seven repetitions.

(for the lower back, hip flexors and gluteus muscles)
Lie on your stomach, with your arms outstretched and your feet flexed so that only your toes are touching the ground. Kick your right foot toward your left arm; then kick your left foot toward your right arm. Since this is an advanced exercise, begin slowly, and repeat up to 12 times.

(for the shoulders, core muscles, and hamstrings)
Stand straight with your legs together. Bend over until both hands are flat on the ground. “Walk” with your hands forward until your back is almost extended. Keeping your legs straight, inch your feet toward your hands. Then walk your hands forward again. Repeat five or six times.

For more information on dynamic stretching or if you are interested in making an appointment, visit our website at www.impacthealthnwa.com and like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/impacthealthnwa.
Impact movement, Impact Health!

Yamaguchi, Taichi, and Kojiro Ishii. "Effects of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on leg extension power." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19.3 (2005): 677-683.
Cramer, Joel T., et al. "Acute effects of static stretching on peak torque in women." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18.2 (2004): 236-241
Reynolds, Gretchen. “Stretching: The Truth” New York edition (2008): MM20
Behm, David G., et al. "Effect of acute static stretching on force, balance, reaction time, and movement time." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 36 (2004): 1397-1402.

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