We’re told that stretching is good for us – it lengthens the muscles we constrict during weight-lifting sessions; it improves our range of motion and flexibility, and it reduces our overall risk of getting injured. But, in the fitness community, there’s plenty of debate about when to stretch, how to stretch, and which type of stretching is best. To clear up any confusion and learn how to maximize the benefits of stretching in your fitness center routine, it’s important to understand the key differences between dynamic and static stretching.

1.      Dynamic stretches use movement; static stretches don’t. 

Dynamic means active, energetic, or vigorous, so dynamic stretching involves movement – usually of more than one muscle group. Think of arm circles, hip hinges and circles, twisted lunges, leg swings, high kicks, and moving quad or hamstring stretches. These stretches take the body through a near-full range of motion that mimics the same movements you go through while exercising.

Static means stationary, so static stretches isolate one muscle group at a time and hold a position rather than moving through a range of motion. Static stretching is likely what comes to mind when you think of stretching, in general – calf stretches, toe touches, standing hamstring and quad stretches, and many yoga poses.

2.      Dynamic stretching boosts athletic performance; static stretching reduces it.

Next to a good warm-up, dynamic stretching is a proven way to boost your performance during a demanding fitness gym workout or athletic even because it activates muscles for what they’re about to do. Studies show that, after dynamic stretching, you’re likely to feel stronger and have better muscle endurance and speed.

Many studies also show that static stretching before a workout, on the other hand, decreases these same abilities. A few reasons could be that it decreases blood flow and places its own demands on your muscles. In any case, most athletic trainers now encourage only dynamic stretching prior to a workout.

3.      Dynamic stretching is best pre-workout; static stretching is best post-workout.

The purpose of dynamic stretching is to gently engage muscles and prepare them for more demanding movements, so it’s most ideal to include 5 to 10 minutes of it in your warmup routine. Always hit key areas like the ankles, hips, shoulders and spine, and then spend some time on dynamic stretches that are specific to the muscles you’re getting ready to work. It could even be the same movements with less depth and speed.

Static stretching might not be best to do before a workout, but it’s still beneficial, especially for lengthening muscles back out after a weight-lifting session, relieving tension, and relaxing the body, overall. Hold each static stretch for 10 to 30 seconds each and repeat until you’ve spend a full minute in each move.

4.      Both dynamic and static stretching improve range of motion, balance, and body awareness and reduce your risk of injury.

Dynamic and static stretching may serve difference purposes around your fitness center workouts, but they’re both an important part of keeping your body limber and healthy. Both types of stretching improve your ability to move your muscles the way they were intended to be moved, increasing your stability and preparing you for anything that comes your way.

Now that you understand them a little better, be sure to include these important types of stretching in your daily and weekly fitness routine.