What type of stretching is the best?
This is a common question when incorporating stretching into your self-management program. Before we can answer these questions, we may need to understand the differences between static and dynamic stretching.
What is static and dynamic stretching?
Static stretching- Static stretch is performed with a prolonged hold for a given length of time without movement
Dynamic Stretching- Dynamic stretching is performed with movement and can be referred to as “active stretching”
The different types of stretching are usually performed prior to an activity and are helpful to prevent injury during that activity. Stretching can potentially be beneficial to improve flexibility and mobility of muscles as well as other various structures. Dynamic stretching has been shown to improve hamstring flexibility and reducing stiffness prior to exercise.1 Static stretching is helpful for older adults, over 65 years of age, and can be incorporated into an exercise regimen.2
What do I need to stretch?
You really don’t need any specialized equipment to be able to stretch. However, there are various products that may be helpful to enhance the outcomes of stretching:
Stretch Strap – A Stretch Strap is unique in that its two different materials allow a variety of stretches and contractions. The blue webbing side of the strap offers more resistance and less stretch, which is what’s needed for static stretching. The black elastic side of the strap provides users with less resistance and plenty of stretch, ideal for dynamic stretching workouts. These elastic pockets along the length of the strap help to gradually stretch your muscles. It’s this unique combination of materials that allows for additional benefits. When the user elongates an elastic loop by stretching muscles, then pulling the webbing strap, they can achieve an isometric contraction. The strap is designed for facilitated stretching that uses isometric contractions to achieve greater flexibility than from static stretching alone. Using a strap gives plenty of space for users to exercise, improve their range-of-motion, gain flexibility and track progress of their work. Change the pocket being gripped and you change resistance, making the same exercise you just did easier or more difficult. With the included manual, users are guided in the proper technique to stretch their thighs, calves, hips, back, hamstrings, shoulders, arms and even toes. The strap is also ideal for yoga. The strap features elastic hand, foot and finger pockets at various lengths that allow users to ease into a stretch as well as change difficulty by simply sliding up or down to the next pocket. Portable, lightweight, and easily foldable for storage or travel, the strap allows you to workout anywhere and everywhere. Indoors or out, home, or away, everywhere is a good spot for a stretch.
Slant Board - The Slant Board is a simple yet highly effective for controlled stretching of the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg. It is ideal in aiding in the rehabilitation of Achilles tendon injuries, shin splints, calf strains and other lower leg injuries. When both feet are placed on the Slant Board, you can quickly tell if one leg is tighter than the other which could be a possible imbalance and injury risk. Ideal to aid in the rehabilitation of Achilles tendon injuries, shin splints, calf strains and other lower leg injuries. Another advantage of the slant board is that when both feet are placed on it then you can quickly tell if one leg is tighter than the other which could be a possible imbalance and injury risk.
CanDo Leg Stretcher – The CanDo Leg Stretcher is an excellent assistive device to help stretch legs, feet, and ankles. Flexibility and range-of-motion in the legs and ankles can be improved with continued use. Also, usage before and after exercising can prevent potential injuries. Inflexible leg muscles and tendons can pose danger to athletes and fitness enthusiasts. When the leg muscles aren’t stretched, they can tighten and constrict the movement of the ankle. This can even lead to future injuries and even ruptures in the Achilles tendon. With the CanDo Leg Stretcher, flexibility can be maintained in the legs, feet, and ankles.
CanDo Back Stretcher – CanDo Back Stretcher is designed to mimic the natural curve of the spine. This design is used to correct posture and stretch your back muscles. Simply recline on the CanDo Back Stretcher so that the spine aligns with the indent in the middle of the back stretcher. Lie on the back stretcher for five-minute intervals as it supports the back and muscles. Regular use of the CanDo Back Stretcher can improve posture and relieve any discomforts caused by poor posture, including muscle spasms, headaches, and muscle tension.
So which type of stretch should I do?
Whether you decide to use static or dynamic stretching within your self-management program, there are benefits to both methods of stretching. Ultimately, it becomes a personal preference with guidance from the available literature. Stretching should consider individualized factors when determining specific clinical recommendations.2
Take home message is no matter which one you choose…
Movement is Medicine!
Article Written By Eric Trauber, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT
- Iwata M, Yamamoto A, Matsuo S, Hatano G, Miyazaki M, Fukaya T, Fujiwara M, and Suzuki S. Dynamic stretching has sustained effects on range of motion and passive stiffness of hamstring muscles. Journal of Science and Medicine, 2019, 18:13-20.
- Page P. Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 2012, 7(1):109-118.