Before we compare static and dynamic stretching, it is important that you understand what they are independently. Static stretching consists of holding a specific pose for a period of time (without any other movement). It is typically used for the purpose of improving flexibility, relaxation, and/or cooling down after a working. Holds typically last 30s to 2 minutes with some research showing and ideal hold time from 30-60s. Dynamic stretching consists of controlled, active movements that take the joint/soft tissue through full range of motion but eliminates the hold that you see with static stretching. It is often used to warm up a joint/tissue, increase circulation, and recruit specific muscle groups in order to prime them for exercise.
WHEN SHOULD I USE STATIC AND/OR DYNAMIC STRETCHING?
I want to precursor this section with saying that static stretching, when done correctly, is not harmful. It may play a role in recovery and improving flexibility, but there is a better and worse time to use static stretching. In a study by Anthony D Kay 1 & Anthony J Blazevich titled "Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review", static stretching of greater than 45 seconds can lead to a decrease in strength, power and speed, therefore acutely reducing a muscles ability to produce torque and power and produce is rapidly. This makes this type of stretching less ideal to do BEFORE a workout as it may affect your performance. Without getting too scientific, the lengthening effect that static stretching has on soft tissues affects that ability of the contractile components of a muscle to reach and attach to one other in order to produce muscle contraction. You can see how this may be detrimental for a heavy lift or a power based movement where FULL and FAST muscle contraction is required. This is not to say that static stretching does not have its benefits in muscle inhibition for relaxation, post workout cool downs, and improving flexibility when done correctly.
A better alternative for warming up your tissues and priming your joints and body for exercise is dynamic stretching as described in the first paragraph. Dynamic stretching and mobilizations can still take the tissue and joint through its full range of motion in order to improve mobility but does NOT do so in a way that inhibits muscle performance. It effectively increases blood flow to the area, improves that tissue's/joint's response to stretch, and primes the body for the exercises to come.
Some good examples of dynamic stretching include (but are definitely not limited to):
1) Frankenstein Walks
2) High Knees/Butt Kickers
3) The World's Greatest Stretch Sequence
4) Walking Hip Rotations
5) Repeated Plank to Downward Dog
6) Cossack Squats
7) Kang Squats
8) CARs (controlled articular rotations)
9) Squat Hold Rotations
10) Squat Hold Rocks with KB
Think about switching up your warm up routine with more dynamic stretching and muscle activation drills (if you haven't already) and see how it improves your performance!
1) Kay AD & Blazevich AJ. Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jan; 44(1): 154-64
Written by: Marissa Oxenford, PT, DPT, CMFA-cert, CF-L1 Trainer, CPT