Stretching- we’ve been told for years that flexibility training is an important part of a well rounded fitness program, yet it’s the thing most of us neglect when exercising. Some people cite a lack of time, but for many it is the fact that they are just simply not sure how best to stretch, or more importantly, when is best to stretch.
In recent years, research has shown that pre-exercise static stretching (holding a stretch in one position without movement- think elementary school PE class) may actually hinder physical performance. While static stretching does have its benefits, such as improved posture and flexibility, the best time to perform this type of stretching is at the conclusion of a workout during the cool-down phase, as it is best to stretch muscles when they are properly warmed, and therefore more pliable. Examples of static stretches include 90 lat stretch, childs pose, leg crossover stretch and overhead triceps stretch.
Research suggests that beginning your workout with a dynamic warm-up is a safer and more effective way to prepare the body for exercise. Dynamic stretching, which involves active range of motion movements that tend to resemble sport or movement-specific actions, lengthens the fascia (the connective tissue around the muscles), increases core body temperature and functionally prepares the body for the activity to come. Examples of exercises you can incorporate in a dynamic warm-up include bird-dog, bear crawl and dirty dog.
Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYTContributor
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT is assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. As a leading fitness expert, writer and educator Jessica is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including Shape and Oprah.com. She holds a B.S. in physical education teacher education from Coastal Carolina University and M.S. in physical education from Canisius College. She is a certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through Yoga Alliance and trained stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga instructor. Prior to teaching at Miramar, Jessica worked full-time ACE, serving in a number of key roles including exercise physiologist, certification director and senior health and fitness editor. Her past work also includes serving as aquatics director at Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center and designing health and physical education curriculum for grades K-12. Full Bio Jessica Matthews »
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