Static Stretching

Static Stretching: Is It Beneficial or Dangerous?

Static stretching is a form of stretching that is done while the body is at rest.  It involves holding a particular stretch for a specified period of time, usually between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.  It is thought that static stretching prepares the body for physical activity, although this has been widely disputed.

Static stretching has long been used as a way to get your muscles ready before doing some type of physical activity, such as running, exercising, competing in athletic events, or athletic training.  In order to perform at your best, your muscles need to be loose and ready to go.  With static stretches, you're stationary and you hold the stretch for a certain period of time.  It's normal to feel a warm sensation when doing a static stretch, however if you start feeling discomfort, you should lessen your stretch in order to avoid injury.

Examples of a Static Stretching Routine

Hamstring Stretch
1)  Stand straight up, with your feet close together.
2)  Hold your arms out in front of you in a straight line.
3)  Bend over at the hips and try to touch your toes.  Hold the stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds.

Quadriceps Stretch
1)  Stand straight up, with your feet close together.
2)  Lift your right leg up behind you and grab your foot with your right hand.
3)  Slowly pull your foot towards your lower back and hold for at least 30 seconds.
4)  Switch legs

Chest Stretch
1)  Hold your right arm out in front of you in a straight line.
2)  Move your right arm to the left, while keeping in straight, so it crosses your body.
3)  Use your left arm to push your right arm closer to your body until you feel the stretch in your chest.
4)  Hold for at least 30 seconds and then switch arms.

 Stretching in general is very beneficial for anyone, regardless of whether you're physically active or not.  Stretching increases your flexibility and helps circulate your blood flow, which can make your body more durable and less injury prone.  People get injured doing everyday tasks, like walking outside to get the mail or getting out of the shower.  Doing a set of stretches, whether that be static stretching or dynamic, is highly recommended for any person.

Over the years, there have been many studies that dispute the effects of static stretching.  It's been said that static stretching actually hinders your athletic performance because it weakens your muscles for up to an hour after stretching.  Weaker muscles are more susceptible to injury, which is why some choose not to do static stretching before any athletic activity.  

There isn't a clear cut rule when it comes to static stretching.  There are positives and negatives that come along with it.  I've done some static stretches before athletic competitions, as well as before I go running.  It made my body feel ready for competition and it didn't cause me to get injured.  It really depends on what you're trying to accomplish as an athlete and how your body responds to static stretching.