Should I be doing any static stretching? If so, before or after my session? I'm often asked these questions by experienced and new trainees alike. The reality is that static stretching (where you hold in a stationary position for a while) has become a bit unfashionable of late, but when it's carried out at the correct time and for a long enough period, it can be a really valuable tool. Static stretching has the potential to:
Increase range of motion acutely (particularly if the stretch is carried out passively by another person or an object like a towel)
Increase range of motion longer term leading to improved posture and movements
Decrease stress levels as it's an effective relaxation technique
When to do it?
The best time to stretch statically is either at the end of a workout, or as a separate session to other training. Carrying out a session of just stretching is recommended if you're specifically looking to improve your mobility and flexibility. Frequency is key as once a week may only maintain your current ranges.
For how long?
For best effects, holding a stretch for 60-120 seconds is optimal. Shorter holds will help maintain or restore range after training but to make real lasting change go for longer.
3 static stretches to try
Everyone will of course have specific areas that they need to work on as we're all different. However, here are 3 static stretches which will restore length in muscles that are placed under high demand during running.
Lay prone on your back and use a towel to pull your leg into a vertical position
Do your best to keep your knee straight so you feel your hamstring lengthen.
To feel a more intense stretch, straighten the other leg so that it’s flat on the floor
Keep upper back and head on the floor throughout
Kneel down on one leg keeping the hips and torso square
Gently push the pelvis forward until a stretch is felt on the front of the hip (of the back leg)
To increase the stretch and maintain a neutral pelvis position, engage the glutes on the back leg
Keeping the toes on the edge of the step, drop your heel as far as possible
Keep the knee straight throughout
You should feel a stretch in the calf but if you don’t, try to drop the heel lower
Give these a go after your next session and as always if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
By Marc Brown