With the weather improving, you may have noticed growing numbers of joggers and runners appearing around your local area. It’s a common sight to see them stepping out of a building, balancing on one foot as they grasp the other in a quadricep stretch while checking their smartwatch ahead of a cardio session. What you might not know is that this is poor stretching form. This is a static stretch, and it’s not a good idea to do one before a workout, explains Dubai-based fitness instructor and influencer Danny Jones.
“Static stretching before a workout is never advisable purely because the muscles aren’t warm and [this] can increase the risk of injury,” he says, adding that an active warm-up, which incorporates dynamic stretches would be more advisable.
Here, Jones breaks down everything you need to know about stretching – the types, when it’s best to do, what stretch, how much is enough and why they’re important for both improved performance and injury prevention.
Types of stretches
Broadly speaking, there are three categories of stretch. “Static stretching refers to the body being in a static position and holding stretches for a set period of time. Dynamic stretching is a more coordinated and controlled movement that takes the muscles through a set range of motion in order to promote more blood flow to that specific area. Ballistic stretching is a more uncoordinated and uncontrolled stretching technique which uses momentum or bouncing in order to increase the elastic threshold of the muscle.”
For a great pair of dynamic stretches, Jones recommends inchworms – standing with your feet, bend at the hips and then walk your hands forward into an extended plank position, before walking them back – with a hold, before samson lunges, which are similar to regular lunges but with your rear knee on the ground and fingers interlocked above your head to stretch the psoas.
When it comes to lifting, whether you’re doing high weights on low repetitions or large numbers of reps at lighter loads, Jones says this shouldn’t impact your stretching routine. “The only difference between someone weight training versus endurance, is that person will be working specific muscle groups within that workout and is more likely to only stretch the muscle groups that they have used, whereas typically an endurance athlete will incorporate a full-body stretch after a long run, bike or swim, for example, due to the large number of muscles used to perform the exercises.”
One of the most frequent mistakes Jones sees his clients make when stretching is duration. “People often rush their stretches without spending enough time in each position – this defeats the object of stretching in the first place as there is zero benefit in holding a stretch for less than ten seconds.”
Another error is bouncing, which commonly occurs during ballistic stretching – this can increase the risk of injury, especially if your muscles aren’t warm. “It takes the muscle through a greater range of motion