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What's the difference between dynamic stretching and static stretching?

The type of stretching you do — and when — is crucial to reducing your risk of injury and relieving sore muscles.

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We all know the importance of stretching. I encourage all of my clients to stretch before and after their workouts to help prevent muscle soreness and reduce the likelihood of injury — plus throughout the day to combat the effects of sitting

But while it may seem like a simple movement, there’s actually some nuance to the type of stretching you should do at different times to optimize the movement.

There are two types of stretching that you need to know: dynamic stretching and static stretching. Both are essential for injury prevention, preparing the body for exercise and helping the body recover. The key to reaping the benefits is to do them strategically throughout your day.

What is the difference between dynamic and static stretching?

What is dynamic stretching?

The purpose of dynamic stretching is to warm up the body before exercise. When performing these stretches you will move in a full range of motion, which improves mobility and drastically reduces the risk of injury by prepping the body for movement.

  • How to do dynamic stretching: This is an active movement that usually involves mimicking the type of movement you’re about to do to prepare the joints and muscles for exercise. For example, if you’re gearing up for a walk, fluid stretches that warm up the hip flexors and hamstrings are ideal. For example, taking a step forward with one foot and bending the front knee into a half lunge to stretch the hip flexor, then taking another step forward to stretch the other leg’s hip flexor, and repeating for 5 steps, continuously moving while you are stretching.

What are the benefits of dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretching prepares your muscles and joints for exercise by promoting mobility and by strengthening the muscles and joints within that range of motion.

The active movement done when dynamic stretching can also raise your core temperature and warm up the body, literally. This helps improves circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout your body quickly and efficiently. As your blood gets pumping, you may feel an energy boost, too!

Dynamic stretching is an excellent tool for minimizing delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. Boosting your circulation allows for faster recovery by providing nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. So, fewer days off post-workout!

What is static stretching?

The purpose of static stretching is to decrease stiffness in the joints and muscles after the body has been warmed up through exercise. In addition, it aids in improving flexibility and the ability of the joint to extend through a range of motion without pain. This type of stretching is done by holding a certain position for an extended amount of time. It shouldn’t be done before exercise, but afterward or throughout the day as it aids in cooling down the body and releasing tension.

  • How to do static stretching: A non-active form of stretching, static stretching involves performing a stretch without movement. For example, bending down to touch your toes and holding the position.

What are the benefits of static stretching?

Static stretching is often used to encourage better flexibility or release tension in stiff muscles or joints. This slow and controlled movement is a great relaxation tool that can be used in the comfort of your own home or post-workout at the gym. Performing static stretching post-exercise also reduces the risk of acute muscle strain injuries and can lessen DOMS. 

Static stretching isn’t only helpful after exercise! It can also be used to combat stiffness and pain in the joints throughout the day — especially if you’re spending large chunks of time sitting. I always encourage people to take 5-minute stretch breaks throughout the day and using this time to perform a few static stretches is a great way to prevent the aches and pains that creep up from a sedentary lifestyle.