Ever wonder what the differences are between static vs dynamic stretching? Stretching is one of the many important steps to ensure you are effectively preparing your body for an upcoming workout and cooling down once it’s complete. Stretching helps you increase your range of motion by engaging and helping warm up those important muscles, soft tissue, and ligaments that play a key role in movement during your workout. In the same way that no two workouts are the same, there is also variety in the types of stretches you can perform before and after a workout. Two common categories of stretches you can perform are static and dynamic stretches.
We’ve highlighted the benefits of each type of stretching, some dynamic and passive stretching examples, and the key difference between the types. Take a look at the differences between static and dynamic stretching to see which stretches you should consider implementing and when they could be used.
Dynamic stretching consists of controlled movements that activate the muscles and joints throughout their entire range of motion. The movements used are often functional or sport-specific. Dynamic stretches are a great way to get your body moving and ready for extended bouts of physical activity where the joints, tissue, and muscles will need to be used for lengthy periods of time.
Dynamic stretches are the recommended type of stretches when you’re getting ready to engage in any type of physical activity that requires your body to have limber joints and additional flexibility for athletic maneuvers. In essence, you’re easing your body into physical activity with a series of movements that help your body get comfortable with the movement itself and the strain that your body is about to be placed under when exercising. Part of helping your body get comfortable with upcoming activities is to get the blood pumping and begin elevating your temperature, which can all be accomplished with dynamic stretches.
Range of motion is also an important element in one’s ability to perform at their best when exercising or working out and new research highlights the benefits of dynamic stretches and the effects it has on range of motion. The research suggests that improving the range of motion with dynamic stretches could have a positive effect on performance for activities that involve power, sprinting, jumping, and muscle force.
Dynamic stretches can be a great way to begin your workout as part of your light warmup.
Showcasing some dynamic stretches can be a great way to highlight the differences between static and dynamic stretching. Before beginning any of the stretches below, consult with a qualified healthcare professional or licensed physical therapist to receive proper education on how to perform the stretches.
One of the best examples of a dynamic stretch is a walking lunge. This dynamic stretch helps individuals stretch out some key muscles including the hamstring, glutes, abdomen, and quads which come in handy for running, jumping, and shuffle movements. To get into the starting position for this dynamic stretch, you’ll want to be standing with your arms on your waist, feet flat on the ground roughly shoulder-width apart, and looking forward. Make sure there is enough room in front of you to step forward and back.
To begin the stretch, you’ll want to take one step forward and lunge until you’re at a 90-degree angle while lowering your body and bending your back knee. From there, you’ll want to step forward with the opposite leg to carry your momentum forward and return to the starting position. Alternate the stretch with the opposite leg while repeating the same actions.
Try to keep your trunk upright and your abdominals engaged. Another key part of good technique is to avoid your knees collapsing inwards as they bend. If you are experiencing knee pain during the lunge, adjust your technique or choose another method.
To get into the starting position for an arm circle stretch, you’ll want to once again be standing with your feet flat on the ground shoulder-width apart, hands at your side, and looking forward. To begin the stretch, raise your arms and extend them at your sides to make a T with your body and position your arms parallel to the floor with your palms facing down towards the ground. Begin circling your arms in the same direction with slow controlled movements. Perform the arm circles for ten seconds and then reverse the direction of the circles for another ten seconds. Perform three sets of arm circles with 30 seconds to a minute of rest in between each set.
Shoulder rolls are one of the best dynamic stretches to help you get rid of tension in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. To start this dynamic stretch, get into a standing position with your feet flat on the ground shoulder-width apart, hands at your side, and facing forward. To begin the shoulder roll stretch, you’ll want to shrug your shoulders towards your ears while keeping the rest of your body relaxed.
Once you’re in a shrug position, in one controlled motion squeeze your shoulder blades together, roll your shoulders backward, down, and return to the starting position. Perform three sets with ten to fifteen repetitions each and get 30 seconds to a minute of rest between each set.
Static stretching is probably the most common type of stretching we think of when considering types of stretches. This type of stretch is when you move a single muscle as far as it can go without pain and hold the position for 45-60 seconds. It is useful to improve range of motion, reduce the chance of muscle strains, and reduce stiffness.
Previous guidance for many years was that everyone should incorporate static stretching into their workout and exercise routine as the preferred method of stretching, but new research suggests that static stretching should only be used for the cooldown phase of a workout or as a regular maintenance routine as it can reduce athletic performance and reduce muscle strength when exercising.
As stated in the research, when holding a static stretch for longer than 60 seconds per muscle group, there could be significant declines in muscle performance. Even though static stretching is no longer the preferred method of stretching before a workout, it can still provide many benefits to increasing one’s range of motion and preparing the body for future exercise.
This doesn’t mean that static stretching isn’t beneficial, as consistent static stretching has been shown to improve range of motion and over the long-term actually improve performance. Due to this, it has been suggested to complete static stretching at the end of an exercise session.
Static stretches can be an effective way to help cool down after a strenuous workout. Take a look at some of the static stretching examples below.
To perform the first static stretch, you’ll want to be standing straight up with your feet flat on the ground, once again shoulder-width apart, and hands at your side. To begin this stretch, reach one arm towards the ceiling, bend it at the elbow, and reach towards your upper back with your palm facing your back. Place your opposite hand on the top of your bent elbow and gently push the arm down until your hand slides down your back. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then return to the starting position to repeat on the other side.
Once again, you’ll want to be in the standing position with your feet flat on the ground and arms at your side. Extend one arm in front of you to be parallel with the ground. Bring your other arm up and use the forearm to gently ease the extended arm across your chest. You should feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder. Hold this stretch for thirty seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat for the opposite side.
To perform this stretch you’ll want to be in a standing position with your feet flat on the ground and facing forward. Begin by bending one leg, grabbing the ankle of the bent leg, and gently pulling the leg up to your glutes. You should feel a slight stretch in your quads as you hold this position for thirty seconds. Gently lower your leg back down to the starting position and repeat for the opposite side.
If you’re having difficulty balancing yourself while performing this stretch, find a sturdy object or wall that will allow you to steady yourself during the maneuver.
The key differences between static vs dynamic stretching is how the stretches are performed, when they should be performed, and the benefits they can provide. Dynamic stretches are best used as part of a light pre-workout warmup where you want to get the blood pumping and can be a great method for increasing body temperature and preparing the body for endurance and strength training. Static stretches are best implemented when part of your cool down after a strenuous workout to lower the body temperature, lower your heart rate, and signal to your body that it should begin the post-workout recovery process.
If you are still unsure about the differences of static vs dynamic stretching or aches and pains are slowing you down, physical therapy can be an effective treatment method for alleviating pain and injury recovery. Our licensed and trained physical therapists are movement experts who can help you get back to doing the things you love most with manual therapy, comprehensive education, strength training exercises, mobility improvement, and stretches.