Stretching 101: Stretching Your Way To Better Health

Picture this…you are at the gym and you just finished an intense cardio session that left your legs and thighs burning. Aching actually. Now, it is off to the weights. You are excited to dive in and work towards your strength goals

Dynamic vs. Static vs. Ballistic Stretching?

Dynamic Stretching:

What: A stretching technique that uses controlled body movements to improve range of motion, loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow assisting in the body to “warm-up” more efficiently. Eventhough dynamic stretching is most effective when it’s sport-specific, it can be used by any individual wanting to prepare for an activity.

When: Use this technique before an activity to warm up the body. Start slowly, focusing on form and, as the exercises get easier, pick up the speed. Use small movements for the first few reps and increase the range of motion as you go.


  • Lateral Leg Swings:
  • Face the wall and put both hands on the wall. With your right foot a few inches off the ground, swing your right leg in front of your left leg as far across your body as you can. Then reverse and swing the leg out to the side. Repeat 10 times on each side.

  • Toy Soldier:
  • Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes. Advance this by adding a skipping motion. Do 10 reps on each side.

  • Quick Squats:
  • Stand up straight while positioning your legs using a shoulder width medium stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up at all times as looking down will get you off balance. Maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position. Lower your torso by bending the knees as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Make sure that your knees stay behind your toes, abs are pulled tight towards your spine, and hips are pressed back. Begin to raise your torso as you exhale by pushing the floor with the heel of your foot mainly as you straighten the legs again and go back to the starting position. Now that you got the position correct, perform 10-15 quick squats, making sure that proper form is maintained.

  • Walking Lunges:
  • Take a lunge by stepping out with your left foot so that your left knee is over your left ankle. Your arms should be in the position they would be in running, so right hand up and roughly a 45-degree angle at the right elbow. Repeat 5 times on each side.

Static Stretching:

What: A stretching technique performed by placing the muscle in a maximally lengthened position and holding it there for a sustained period of time (10 – 30 seconds).

When: Use this technique after you are done with your workout session. When done properly, static stretching slightly lessens the sensitivity of receptors within your body, allowing the muscle to relax and to be stretched to greater lengths. When you stretch after workouts, the muscle fibers not only get a chance to lengthen when they are most pliable (therefore, decreasing tightness and potential increased pain), but they also get realigned by creating tension in the direction of the muscle fibers.

How: Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds each

  • Calves::
  • Find a street curb or stairway step. Place the ball of your foot on the end of the ledge. Slowly drop your heal down while keeping the ball of your foot on the step. Be sure and support yourself if you can or have someone to grab onto.

  • Kneeling Hip Flexors:
  • Lunge forward with knee on padded mat. Position foot beyond forward knee. Place hands on knee. Straighten hip of rear leg by pushing hips forward. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite side.

  • Hamstrings:
  • Lie on back and place rope or towel over the foot. Other leg should remain flat on floor at all times. Slowly straighten knee until stretch is felt in back of thigh. Remember to keep the low back straight to isolate stretch in hamstring.

  • Quadriceps:
  • Standing with a shoulder width stance and hang onto an object for support. Bring one foot up and grab with your hand. Pull your foot up until you feel a stretch on the front of your thigh. Hold for the prescribed time and repeat with the other leg.

  • Chest:
  • Stand at end of wall or in doorway facing perpendicular to wall. Place inside of bent arm on surface of wall. Position bent elbow shoulder height. Turn body away from positioned arm. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite arm.

  • Upper Back:
  • Grab a pole or other solid, stationary object. Clasp hands firmly around the pole. With a slight bend in the knees, lean your body away from the pole as if you are falling and the pole is keeping you upright. Round your back similar to that of a cat. To focus the stretch on the large latissimus dorsi muscles of the middle back, lean your torso to the desired side. For example, to stretch the lat muscle on the right side, while holding the pole, lean the body so that the right side of the torso curves out and the left side curves in.

  • Shoulders:
  • Bring your left arm across your chest, holding it above the elbow with your opposite. Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Repeat on opposite side. Stretch to the point of “mild discomfort,” not to the point of pain. Never bounce. Straighten but do not lock elbow.

  • Low Back:
  • Extend both of your arms outward to the side of the room with your palms facing up. For the most effective stretch, make sure that both arms are placed perpendicular to the spine. Draw both knees toward your chest, and slowly drop them toward your right hand. Gaze to the left and hold.

  • Hips:
  • Lie on your back with both legs in the air. Place your right ankle on your thigh above your left knee. Reach your right hand through the open space created by your right leg and grab your left hand that is reaching around the outside of your left thigh. Slowly bend your left knee. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right hip.

Ballistic Stretching :

What: A stretching technique that forces the joint to move past it’s normal range of motion and done with momentum and a “bouncing” movement. This type of stretching does not allow your muscles to relax and adjust to the stretched position. This aggressive stretching can cause muscle pulls, muscle tears, and muscle strains, as well as forced trauma to the joints, tendons, and ligaments.

When: Never, unless you are an elite athlete under careful supervision of a personal trainer or coaching staff.

7 Important Points To Remember In Proper Stretching

Ok, so you are probably saying to yourself right this moment, “I get it, stretching is important for maintaining my overall health! Now what do I do?” Take the action step below!

Action Step:

Let’s get your stretching program into high gear by committing to a 10-15 minute stretching program added into your workout. Perform a 5 minute dynamic stretching warmup at the beginning of your session and then follow up with 5-10 minutes of static stretching at the end of your session to cool down and realign those muscle fibers! Use some of the examples listed above to get you started!

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