Dynamic, PNF and Static: Why A Regular Stretching Routine Matters!
By Asha Khan
Do you prioritise stretching in your week?
Common aches and pains like tight traps, tight hip flexors or hamstrings can really effect daily life! But thankfully these common issues can be addressed by incorporating a regular stretching routine.
There are so many glorious benefits of flexibility training!
- At rest, the muscles are less likely to hold tension.
- When training, greater mobility will increase your range of movement which is important to create stress on the muscles (therefore forcing adaptation to get stronger).
- An increased resting length of the muscles allows us to correct imbalances. This will have a positive effect on your posture and you will even find that holding certain positions like sitting or standing will be more comfortable.
- Lastly, frequent stretching promotes recovery from training and a relaxed mindset. We hold our body in positions that promote blood flow and a release of tension – that is why you feel so calm and yet energised after a good yoga session!
When not to prioritise flexibility?
During pregnancy your ligaments become looser to prepare your body for birth. As you enter the later stages of pregnancy it is important to control the range of movement you put your body through so that you stay safe and injury free. An active warm up and gentle stretching post workout is fantastic but now is not the time to put flexibility as your top goal.
Unidentified muscle or joint pain
We are very good at ignoring little niggles and twinges but we shouldn’t be! When something feels out of place or significantly tighter or more painful than other areas, you should prioritise getting a diagnosis so that you do not exacerbate the issue. Once you have a diagnosis you can implement any rehab exercises into your workout routine and then re-introduce frequent stretching to help protect from further injury.
Dynamic, static or PNF stretching?
You have probably heard there are a few different ways to increase you mobility, flexibility and range of movement.
Let’s first start with the importance of blood flow and getting the muscles ‘warm’.
Have you heard the rubber band analogy? Place a rubber band in the freezer overnight and then try and stretch it. It snaps! Now consider your muscles. You come into the gym straight from bed or from sitting at work all day and if you don’t give your muscles enough time to warm and loosen before trying to stretch them, you are far more likely to injure yourself.
Before training, it is a good idea to start with dynamic mobility drills. These movements are designed to prepare your body for lifting by loosening the ligaments, tenders and muscles around a joint. Often we use yoga flows, leg swings, hip openers or shoulder dislocates. All of these are examples of dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches can be used to mobilize specific joints, general warming up or to prepare the body for specific lifts or movements e.g. deadlifts, throwing or kicking a ball.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretch is a bit of fun. It is a more advanced form of form of flexibility training that involves three muscle actions; hold-relax, hold-contract and hold- relax with agonist contraction. It is common to come across this type of stretching in clinical rehabilitation, but if you have a gym buddy or partner, it can be done at home too. This technique involved both passive movements and active (concentric and isometric) muscle actions.
This is best used post workout as a cool down and part of an active recovery. Static stretching involves holding one position for between 30 seconds to 3 minutes at the end of its range of movement.This allows your muscles to loosen up after being put under stress during a workout, encourage it to return to a longer resting length and your overall range of movement. Static stretching promotes an increase in blood flow which helps our muscles recover after a workout and may decreases the level of muscle soreness you experience. Studies also indicate that static stretching before weight training could have a detrimental effect on the power or strength output of the muscles.
What is safe static stretching?
- Hold each stretch for 30 seconds or more.
- Stretching should be smooth, avoid bouncing in and out of the position.
- Expect tension but do not push for pain.
- Prioritise large muscle groups like your glutes and leg muscles.
- Hold correct form instead of pushing for a depth of stretch that you cannot achieve.
- Breath deeply while stretching as this will encourage the body to release.
- To deepen a stretch safely, take a big inhale, release the stretch and then as you exhale sink back into it pushing slightly deeper.
Do you have splits as a goal?
Getting your splits is a common goal. If this is something you are striving towards then follow this simple stretching routine that will get your lower and lower in no time.
If you need help with your weekly stretching routine during lockdown, be sure to join Asha’s 5:30pm Wednesday stretch session. This class can be accessed on our $29 per week unlimited ISO Squad Pass.
Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.
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