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Safety Considerations for Static & Dynamic Stretching

Instructor: Sarah Bryant

Sarah has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an active Registered Nurse license. She teaches in hospitals, clinics and the classroom.

In this lesson, we'll decipher the difference between static and dynamic stretching. We'll go over some important items that need to be thought about in terms of safety for both forms of stretching, as well as some steps on how to perform these stretches with a few quick pointers.

The Basics of Safety for Static & Dynamic Stretching

Static Stretching: The Oxford Dictionary defines the word static as ''lacking in movement, action or changeā€¦ ,'' which reveals the point of static stretching. It's an exercise of stretching, without movement, for around 20-45 seconds. This makes it sound pretty safe, doesn't it? Well, we'll go a bit deeper into what could cause this to be a potentially harmful exercise if used at an inappropriate time.

Dynamic Stretching: The Oxford Dictionary defines the word dynamic as ''(of a process or a system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.'' This is the point of a dynamic stretch: it takes your body through a series of movements, or perhaps just one single movement, that focuses on one area of the body.

The included images show the difference between static and dynamic stretching. The woman stretching in purple shorts is doing a static stretch because she's engaging a specific muscle, taking it to the end of its range of motion, and holding it in place. The other image is of a woman using resistance bands to aid in a dynamic stretch. This woman is incorporating movement and using equipment to add to the stretch, which makes it dynamic.

An example of a static stretch
An example of a static stretch

An example of a dynamic stretch with a resistance band
Dynamic stretch with resistance band

Delving Deeper Into the Stretches

Static stretching is generally a safe form of stretching to do; however, it could cause injury if someone performed static stretching and then went on to perform something strenuous on the muscles (basketball, volleyball, running a marathon, swimming, etc.). Static stretching should be used post performance to avoid injury. If you're simply using this mode of stretching for flexibility purposes, a daily routine to add balance or focus in your life or simply because you wish to stretch, it's a safe option to use.

Let's talk about some other pointers when deciding to use static stretching. First, warm up your body before beginning to stretch, nothing strenuous, just a little five minute walk to get some blood flowing. Next, remember to breathe normally (don't hold your breath or hyperventilate). Then, what you'll want to remember while stretching is to work the opposing muscle groups. For example, if you're stretching your quadriceps (front of the thigh), then you'll also want to stretch your hamstrings (back of the thigh). The point of stretching opposing muscle groups is to avoid injuring yourself because strengthening one and not the other could result in tears within muscle fibers. Finally, don't bounce while holding a stretch; this could cause fibers within the muscles to have micro tears and/or strain the muscles. Here are some quick guidelines for static stretching:

  1. Warm up the body a bit (around five minutes, by walking)
  2. Select the muscle
  3. Take it to the end of its range of motion (ROM)
  4. Hold in place for the 20-45 seconds, until slight discomfort is felt (repeat this two more times)
  5. Breathe normally
  6. Don't bounce
  7. Select opposing muscle and repeat the steps above

Okay, let's move on to dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is something that's a huge help to ones muscles prior to engaging in a physical activity. This type of exercise involves some movement, which in turn increases blood flow to specific body parts and, therefore, prepares them for use. This is the form of exercise that athletes will use as a warm up prior to a sport. Dynamic stretching engages specific muscles, muscle groups and other parts of the body which will be used in the sport or activity, which is why it's called a ''warm up.'' The need to know about this form of stretching is in the motions for the stretches that will be used: they need to be properly executed/performed to avoid injury!

Breakdown of Static & Dynamic Stretching

Static Stretching:

  • Stationary
  • Useful for everyone
  • No equipment necessary
  • Specific body position
  • Generally safe
  • Used for flexibility training, or daily routines
  • Used after sport/strenuous activity

Dynamic Stretching:

  • Movement
  • Not useful for everyone
  • Equipment needed sometimes
  • Multiple body parts involved
  • Injury is more common
  • Used in conjunction with static strecthing for flexibility training, or daily routines
  • Used prior to strenuous activity/sport

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