Stretching is a very valuable tool and should be part of your daily routine.
There are a few different forms of stretching that can be used for unique purposes. Misguided and misplaced stretching can lead to more harm than good if not used in the right manner or time.
There are 3 main forms of stretching: Static, Dynamic, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF).
- Static Stretching: This is where you put a stretch on a muscle and hold it for an allotted amount of time. This type of stretching should never be done as part of your pre-lifting ritual. Studies show that static stretching can weaken a muscle, lower force production and negatively affect connective tissue. It has also been shown to increase the risk of injury when done before lifting or before any physical activity. We need to understand that static stretching does not and will not physically lengthen a muscle, and it is primarily a method of relaxing a muscle. It should be obvious that we do not want to relax a muscle and then attempt to constrict it with a workout. In order to use static stretching to your advantage it should be done at least 4-6 hours after lifting or athletic activity.
- Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): This is a contract relax method and a good style to use pre- workout to increase mobility for movements, such as the barbell back squat. The effects of PNF stretching can last for 4-6 hours. This version does not decrease blood flow to the muscle as static stretching does and creates rapid flexibility.
- Dynamic Stretching: This version uses momentum to force the muscle into further extension. Movements such as knee raises, or high leg kicks. This is also a great pre-workout stretch as it excites as well as warms up the muscle for activity.
Just remember that before a workout, you are striving for mobility over flexibility.