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The Power of Movement

Our body is designed to move. But what movement should we add? Should we use weights or body weight? Should we stretch before or after a workout? What is the deal with static and dynamic stretching? While we will not be able to answer all questions posed here during this post, we will answer some big talking points on static and dynamic stretching and training.

Stretching

First, when should we stretch? I think the answer could be, as often as possible. However, we know this is not a satisfying answer and it may lead to the "I don't have time" syndrome. Stretching is an important aspect of not only a fitness routine, but as a part of healthy living. Stretching our muscles daily provides benefits to muscle and joints and reduces risk of injury. Just 10 minutes of added stretching to each day, or a minimum or 3 days per week, has shown support for these benefits.

Knowing this, why wouldn't you stretch? The "no time" mantra will not work here. If you have time to exercise, it is essential to make time during your routine for stretching. Then on the off days, when you have a whole extra 30 minutes to one hour open, replace 10 minutes of those with some stretching. Adding 10 minutes of stretching to most days of your week (morning or night) will lead to improved flexibility, reduced tension, and additional relaxation, along with the earlier benefits mentioned.

Yes, you read that right. Morning or night, or even mid-day. It does not matter when you stretch, it matters that it takes place. Now, there are suggestions for when to fit it in with an exercise routine, and here they are: Add dynamic (movement) stretching before your workout and static (traditional) stretching after. Now, let's get a little more information on these two classes of stretching.

Dynamic vs. Static

Here it is important to point out again that both forms of movement and stretching are important and have their place both during your exercise routine and outside of it. So what is the big difference? As mentioned above, dynamic involves additional movement; therefore, static is often a singular movement that engages one muscle or area for a period of time.

In the case of stretching, dynamic stretches involve movement of various muscle groups and joints at the same time and often mimic an activity of daily living or sport without causing exhaustion. Examples are lunge kicks, arm swings/ circles, and walking while moving the torso side-to-side. These dynamic (movement) stretches are preferable before exercise as they warm up your muscles and get them ready for activity.

Static stretches are those traditionally thought of when you are told to stretch- where a single movement is made that stretches a muscle or small group of muscles to the point of tension, not pain, and is then held for 15-30 seconds. Common examples are reaching for your toes, holding your foot to stretch your quads, and holding your arm across your chest to stretch the shoulder. These static stretches are preferable after exercise or activity since your muscles are already warmed up; therefore, the risk of injury goes down and flexibility benefits go up.

Training

Now, what about when we train? Not only should we stretch using both dynamic and static stretches but we should train the way we move, and incorporate both classes of exercise. This can also help mix up your routine, which is important to do semi-regularly and especially important to do it you have hit or feel you are near a plateau.

For exercises, we can define a static exercise as a single movement exercise that isolates a single muscle or group. Therefore, dynamic exercise are multi-level movements that include more than one large muscle or group. An exercise such as biceps curls, while an effective exercise, can be defined as a static exercise. However, if you were to do weighted lunges and each time you stand you do a biceps curl, that would now be a dynamic exercise. If you normally do static exercises in your routine, switch them out for some dynamic exercises and see if you notice a difference.

For example, a standard plank does wonders for our core, but once you are able to hold that static pose for about 1 minute, it is time to move on to a more dynamic plank. Add movement to your planks- sway forward and back or side-to-side while maintaining proper body form; move arms and legs opposite each other up and down periodically for an additional challenge; or move legs one at a time side-to-side to incorporate more obliques. And keep in mind, that just like stretching, benefits can be seen from just 10 minutes of exercise a day

Take Away Points

Static stretches have their place between workout days and after workouts, but next time you exercise, try some dynamic stretches before. If you normally focus on static exercise, then trade some out for more movement-based or dynamic exercises.

The more functional or dynamic the exercise, the greater the benefits that are often seen. These benefits include increased strength and improved balance. Plus, you will be less likely to become bored by your exercise routines! Take our planks example again and add another level by doing various dynamic planks to a specific song, make it a routine.

I came across this video recently and have found more enjoyment and motivation to complete my planks to it, maybe you will too! Bottom line, our body is designed to move, so mix things up, try something new, and never hold yourself back. 

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