Now, I'm no fitness buff, but I do know a thing or two when it comes to keeping myself healthy. I know that I should do a mix of cardio and some kind of strength training. I know I should probably avoid McDonald's if I ever want to tone my belly back down to its 18-year old state. And I know, or at least, thought, that I needed to stretch before I hit the treadmill.
It seems, though, that someone has been lying to me. According to this article at MSNBC.com, there are several types of stretching and static stretching – the kind typically suggested as a way to warm up – can actually hinder your workout performance by slowing the muscles down. Static stretching is actually best for a post-workout cool down, and both active and dynamic stretches should be done beforehand.
Confused? The article defines the following types of stretching like this:
1. Static stretching — A sustained stretch that is held and leveraged with another limb or against gravity in order to deepen the stretch.
2. Ballistic — Your body is placed in a stretched position and then followed with small bounces performed in an attempt to deepen the stretch.
3. Active — A stretch in which the opposing muscle group contracts and pulls the body into a stretch.
4. Dynamic – A stretch in which the body or a limb is moved through a range of motion. Example: Extending your arms and then moving them in full circles.
Want to stretch to improve your flexibility? The best time to do so is also at the end of your work out with relaxing static stretches that you hold for about 30-60 seconds, repeating up to four times each.
It doesn't seem like a big deal, but stretching is a super important part of any work out. You'll be leaner, more flexible and have better posture — so don't skip it!