Hey Angels and Alphas,
But one thing is clear: stretching will help you improve both your range of motion and your flexibility. These two factors play a vital role in terms of warding off injuries in the long-term, and they can also improve your fitness performance altogether.
Having improved flexibility will allow you to increase your range of motion. In turn, this helps the athlete become more efficient at moving, and the body is less likely to get injured. Healthy mechanics of the body and healthy training usually go hand in hand and stretching has crucial implications for athletes that want to rehabilitate, or better yet, prevent injuries.
One small study actually found that some inflexibility in specific areas of the body can be an asset for some runners. Even so, every good runner will have a pretty healthy amount of muscular pliability, so in no way does this translate to stiffness to the point of impairing movements.
The key is this: knowing when to do which type of stretching.
There are two basic types of stretching: static and dynamic.
Static stretching is all about holding certain postures. This elongates your muscles. Stretching has been proven to have a detrimental effect on performance when done before a certain activity. The main theory as to why this happens is that when a muscle is too elongated before an activity, it loses its ability to generate explosive power during movements. Therefore, static stretching should be done after your training, or as a means of rehabilitation.
Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, has been shown to have the opposite effect. Dynamic stretching uses active movements to allow you to stretch and train the muscles to fire in a specific way, preparing them for explosive moments such as lifting weights, running, jumping, etc.
Consider integrating the following series of stretches into your pre-workout and post-workout routine. Before training, do dynamic stretches to prepare and engage. After training, do static stretches to release and restore.
PRE-WORKOUT STRETCHES (DYNAMIC)
#1 WALKING LUNGES (do about 15-20 meters of walking lunges)
Start off by standing with your feet at hip-width apart. Perform a lunge, basically stepping your left leg forward, and as you plant your left foot, lower your body down as low as you can. Your left knee should be at a 90-degree angle, and it should also be perfectly aligned with your left ankle. Slowly come back to the center, stand up, and repeat this with your right leg.
#2 LEG SWINGS (do a couple of sets, at least one for each direction)
Start off with some forward leg swings by standing next to a wall so you can keep balance. While you’re keeping both your legs straight, simply swing your left leg in front of your body, and then behind your body. This counts as one leg swing.
Don’t swing past the point of discomfort. After you repeat with your right leg, switch to sideways leg swings to add variety. Similar to the first variation, swing the left leg toward the right, sweep your foot across your body and then go back to the left. Repeat with your right leg.
#3 THE FRANKENSTEIN (do about 15 meters forward then 15 meters back)
While your feet are hip width apart, stretch out your arms in front of your body and keep your palms facing downward. Then simply march forward, all while swinging your left leg up in front of your body. Be sure that you can maintain perfect posture and keep your knees straight so you’re creating a 90-degree angle with your body. Once you plant your left leg back on the ground, proceed to swing your right leg up.
POST-WORKOUT STRETCHES (STATIC)
#1 THE PIGEON (do the pigeon pose for 1-2 minutes)
Start off in the initial pushup position. Then bring your right leg forward, placing your bent knee and your thigh in front of your body. Your right foot should be sitting near your left hip. Then, your left leg should remain extended right behind your body, and the top of it should be resting on the ground. While supporting your body with your hands on either side, simply feel the stretch and hold for about a minute on each side.
#2 THE SCISSOR STRETCH (do about a minute of scissor stretches on each side)
Start with your feet together and step your right foot forward a couple of feet. Then carefully bend forward at your hip, reaching down toward the ground and placing your hands on the sides of your right foot. Hold for about a minute and switch sides.