An intro to Static Stretching

Static stretching guide

Unlike our dynamic stretching that we discussed in a previous post, static stretching is stretching without movement. Which does not make it the most effective form of stretching for warming up before a training session but it does make them very suitable for cooling down at the end of a training session.

What are the benefits of static stretching?

Static stretching helps to lengthen the muscles which overtime will lead to a reduced risk of injury, better posture and improved movement efficiency. In the short term it can help alleviate muscle tension and reduce the likelihood of muscle soreness experienced after exercising. In addition to these benefits it can have a wonderful calming effect too. Slowly reducing the heart rate and blood pressure and allowing the muscles to relax and recover. 

Breathing

When we are engaged in static stretching we should also think about our breathing. Focus on the breath coming in and out slowly. This helps the muscles relax so we can go deeper into the stretch without discomfort. Focusing on our breathing also allows us to be very present, calm and peaceful which is exactly the place we want to be at the end of a training session if we want to accelerate the recovery/repair process that follows. Static stretching following your workout can then also double up as a bit of mindfulness training!

Maintenance stretching

At the end of a training session we would always recommend at the very least you carry out a few maintenance stretches. Maintenance stretches are focussed mainly on maintaining your range of motion with less emphasis on actually improving your range of motion. Holding a stretch for just 10-15 seconds before moving onto the next one. Don’t forget to focus on your breathing. Long deep breaths whilst holding the stretch.

Developmental stretching 

Developmental stretching has a much greater emphasis on developing range of motion. A stretch is held for 10 seconds, whilst continuing to focus on your breathing after 10 seconds and on the out breath you then increase the stretch a little more. This can be repeated multiple times, we recommend 3-6 times which would result in a total duration of 30-60 seconds for one developmental stretch.

A simple static stretch routine

The following is a very simple static stretch routine that can be done following your training session. They can be performed as maintenance stretches or developmental stretches using the guidance above.

1. Standing gastrocnemius

Muscles being stretched: Gastrocnemius (back of lower leg)

Teaching points:

  • Feet hip width apart
  • Back leg straight but unlocked, heel flat on floor
  • Both feet facing forward

 

2. Standing hamstrings

Muscles being stretched: Hamstrings (back of thigh)

Teaching points:

  • Feet hip width apart
  • Step one leg forward, keep the leg straight, knee unlocked
  • Bend back leg and bend forward from the hips
  • Both feet facing forward

3. Standing quadriceps

Muscles being stretched: Quadriceps (front of thigh)

Teaching points:

  • Stand tall, look forward with upright posture
  • Raise one heel towards buttocks and hold ankle with hand of same side
  • Knee of stretching leg points towards the floor

4. Standing latissimus dorsi

Muscles being stretched: Latissimus dorsi  (back)

Teaching points:

  • Stand upright
  • Reach arms overhead
  • Bed to side without leaning forward or backward

5. Standing pectorals

Muscles being stretched: Pectoralis  (chest)

Teaching points:

  • Stand with arms raised level with shoulders
  • Contract the upper back and retract shoulder blades to draw arms back
  • Keep neck long and shoulders away from ears 

6. Standing trapezius and rhomboids

Muscles being stretched: Trapezius  (upper back) and Rhomboids (mid back)

Teaching points:

  • Stand upright with hands in front of body, level with shoulders
  • Link fingers and round upper back
  • Pull shoulder blades apart

 

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