dreamstime_14756649As a result of research over the past several decades, there is controversy about the benefits of static stretching prior to exercise.  Some research has determined that static stretching can hinder explosive movements, and if not done properly can promote instability in a joint.  Most experts now agree that one should warm up by doing light cardiovascular exercises, such as slow jogging, for 5 – 10 minutes prior to doing any stretching.

The second type of stretching is called dynamic stretching, also referred to as active stretching.  In comparison to static stretching, dynamic stretching involves moving parts of your body, gradually increasing the reach of the movements.  Dynamic stretching warms up joints, reduces muscle tension, and helps to increase range of motion.

Just like the other aspects of an exercise program, you should establish a plan for stretching.  Decide how much time you will spend stretching before and after workouts.  In addition, explore with dynamic stretching options as they are more likely to help you increase your flexibility.

Be sure to stretch each muscle group, starting with major muscle groups like your hamstrings, low back, and hips, and move to smaller muscle groups.

When stretching, be open to using props for assistance.  For example, a towel or strap for shoulder exercises, or yoga blocks for hamstrings and forward stretches.  Remember to breathe!  Whether you are doing static or dynamic stretching, breathe slow and deep through the stretch.  Exhale as the muscle lengthens to promote relaxation and extension.