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Ask the Expert: What’s the deal with stretching?

Q: Should I be stretching before or after my work out?

A: That’s a great question – and one I get on a daily basis!  In the past it’s been suggested that we should be stretching before we work out to help prevent injury.  However, recent research points to the importance of both the type of stretching and the timing of it in injury prevention and long term improvements in mechanics.  So, what are the 2 main types of stretching and when would you use them?

Dynamic Stretching:  Stretching using speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch.  Dynamic Stretching also increases the blood flow to the target muscle and tissue helping enhance pliability.  It’s ideal before a work out.  Examples would include:  High knees, hamstring curls (kick butts), straight leg kicks, lunges, etc.  Check out this blog on Dynamic Stretching.

Static Stretching:  Holding a stretch using body weight or some other external force.  This activates sensors within the muscles and tendons signaling them to adapt to the increased tension.  Static Stretching produces the best long term gains in flexibility.  It’s important that static stretches are performed only when the muscle fibers are warm and filled with blood.  Thus, you should be doing static stretches after your workout.  Watch the video below for basic stretches and guidelines.

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