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Question of the Week: The Benefits of Stretching Exercises

Our expert answers a question about the different types of stretching exercises and their benefits.

The science behind fitness and health is wild, crazy and ever changing. One minute a study supports a particular claim, then next it's the worst thing you could humanly do to or for yourself. Sometimes you'll even find the same questions looming around the industry with mixed reviews, perspectives and findings. In efforts to calm the maddess, each week here at MensFitness.com we'll scour the Internet, tap into forums and ask our friends on Facebook and Twitter about what question in fitness we can get some firm answers to.

This week, we explain two different styles of stretching and their benefits.

Q: When and how should I stretch before and after workouts? What are the different types of stretches?

 

A: It doesn’t matter how safe we are when we’re performing our exercises, injury potential is still there if our muscle’s aren’t in the best condition. Tissue quality is important, and stretching, when applied correctly, can improve that quality. In general, there are two major types of stretching – dynamic and static stretching. If we add these to the right places in our workout, we can really get the most out of our sets and reps, and stay injury free.

Dynamic Stretching - Pre Workout

Dynamic stretching involves putting muscles through their full range of motion by way of mobilizing the joints to which the muscles attach. Good examples of the movements would be leg swings, arm circles cradle walks, spiderman walks, and karaoke. The benefits of doing dynamic stretching are many. Our goal is to make our nervous system get to a point that it’s fired up, and ready to move some heavy weights. We don’t want to take it the other way and subdue it when there’s work to be done. Dynamic stretching will elevate the muscles’ temperature, and ramp the nervous system up so the body’s right where it needs to be when your first set begins.

Static Stretching - Mid and Post Workout

The typical “stretch – and – hold” method is simply known as static stretching. Since static stretching can act to dull the nervous system, we can use that to our advantage during our workouts. If we’re noticing a muscle getting too involved in an exercise when it’s not welcome (a good example would be the quads dominating a squat and not leaving room for the glutes and hamstrings), we can strategically static stretch our quads between sets to lower their nervous involvement and give more of the work to the wanted muscles. This can be applied in other cases, like when the chest gets too involved in back exercises, or when the hips take away from glute involvement. Of course, when the nervous system’s stimulation is no longer a factor, a good static stretch to all major muscle groups at the end of a workout is in perfect order. Apply these tips and stay mobile and injury free through your training weeks.

About the Trainer: Lee Boyce

Lee Boyce, CPT is a strength coach based in Toronto, ON. A former Kinesiology Major, Lee competed as a sprinter and long jumper at the National level. His work has been featured in many major magazines including Men's Health, Musclemag, TNATION, and also on national television. For more on Lee, check him out at leeboycetraining.com, @coachleeboyce and Facebook.

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