Static stretching is the act of stretching a muscle at fixed position for a period of time, often 30 seconds to one minute.
This is different from dynamic stretching because the muscle is not active at all. Instead, an external force is applied to the muscle to stretch it, as opposed to the extended movement creating the stretch.
Static stretches have been used traditionally by athletes and pretty much everyone who works out and exercises. Whenever people think of warming up before a run, or some other physical activity, they think of stretching. The idea is reinforced by movies and other public media.
Studies have shown that perfroming static stretches before exericse may not be as good for you as originally thought, however. The claim is that this type of stretch can weaken the muscle and make it more prone to injury during the ensuing activity. The muscle has a weaker response and generates less force; this effect can last up to 30 minutes.
Despite the negatives just mentioned, there are benefits to this type of stretch.
The major benefit is a concentrated focus on increasing flexibility and range of motion in the joints. This can also be achieved with dynamic stretching, but not to the same degree and potential. As far as flexibility goes, dynamic stretching is like a utility knife, whereas static stretching is a surgical blade: the static stretches are just more specialized for increasing flexibility.
So the question is ‘when do you perform static stretching?’ The best times are just after your workout, when you're all warmed up and ready to relax, or any time when you're not going to exercise.
I encourage you to incorporate this type of stretch into your routine. Flexible and limber muscles are less prone to injury and improve athletic performance.
If you play a competitive and intense sport like football or basketball, this is especially true. Many times while playing these sports, I have had people push, bump, step on, and contort my body in several places and to a degree that if my muscles and tendons were not conditioned to be that flexible, I would have been more injured for sure.
Sample Stretching Exercises
So what are some good stretching exercises? The list below has some sample stretching exercises, and although they aren't comprehensive, they will help improve your flexibility.
Head To Knees
- You can do this standing up or sitting down. Your legs are straight and feet are together.
- Reach as far down as you can with your hands and grab your ankles or feet.
- Exhale a bit, tucking in your abdomin and try to touch your head to your knees.
- Go until you feel a mild stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Relax.
- Lie on your back.
- Place your hands at your shoulder, palms on ground.
- Plant your feet on the ground with your heels close to your butt.
- Now, push up off the ground. Push your waist towards the sky while trying to straighten out your arms. Your whole body should be in a nice bow or arc.
- This is one of the more difficult moves. Try to hold this position for 30 seconds, then relax.
Shoulder Stretch with Side Bend
- While Standing, interlock your fingers with your hands resting on your head.
- Push your hands up, palms facing the sky, arms straight, and your fingers still interlocked. Try to get a mild stretch in your shoulders and upper back.
- Breath in. Now bend to the side. Slowly breath out while holding the stretch for a few seconds.
- Bend back and relax, resting your hands on your head. Repeat for other side, and keep alternating.
- Sit down with your back straight.
- Press the soles of your feet together, and try to tuck your heels in towards the body as close as possible.
- Now, press your knees towards the ground until you get a mild stretch.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, then relax.
- Find a wall or pole to push against with your hands.
- Place one foot directly in front of the other, pointing towards the wall.
- Now, bend the front knee forward until you get a good stretch in your back leg's calf.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Then relax and switch the legs so the other leg is in front.
Return to stretching exercises from static stretching