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Sample Chapter:
Caring for Your Back
Sample Routine:
Traveler's Stretches
Sample Routine:
Gardening Stretches

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Stretching
30th Anniversary Revised Edition

Dynamic Stretching

What’s all this you hear these days about “dynamic stretching?” There have been recent media articles claiming that “dynamic stretching” is the preferred method for athletes, that static stretching is no longer useful before competition, and in fact, may even be harmful. First, some definitions:

  • Dynamic stretching is defined as “…actively moving a joint through the range of motion required for a sport.”
  • Static stretching refers to holding a stretch with no movement.
  • Stretching, as in this book, refers to a two-phase stretch with movement.*

What’s going on here? It may have started with a well-publicized study in the 1994 Honolulu Marathon in which runners who stretched had more injuries than those who didn’t. First, how did the control group stretch? If incorrectly (as many competitors do — pushing too far, or bouncing), it could well have increased injuries. And why conclude that stretching caused the injuries? (Curiously, these results applied only to white males, not women or Asians.)

Some sports trainers say athletes should not practice static stretching before competition (although many of them recommend it after the event). Here’s what I recommend:

For athletes: After a warm-up, some gentle stretches will prepare you for dynamic stretches, drills, and further warming up. Mild stretches give your muscle a signal they are about to be used. And, static stretching (two-phase) after the event is highly beneficial.

For the general population (ordinary people, not competitive athletes): I believe two-phase stretching is as effective and useful as ever. Over 31⁄2 million people (worldwide) have bought and used Stretching (the great majority of them not competitive athletes). We’ve received favorable feedback for over 30 years. Stretching makes people feel better.

And what about yoga? Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world practice yoga, which is actually static stretching. Would they be practicing yoga if it wasn’t beneficial?

Curiously, if you check out dynamic stretches, many of them are really drills. Arm swings, leg swings, side bends, toe touches. Nothing new here; these movements have been used for years by athletes in warm-ups; they just weren’t called “dynamic stretching.”

Some of the new dynamic stretches look good to me, including those that take a regular stretch and add motion, mimicking sports-specific movements. You can see a video of these online at: http://bit.ly/ja7n. If I were a competitive athlete, I’d look into dynamic stretching, and — listen to my coach or trainer. But I’d keep static stretches in my toolbox.

To say that dynamic stretching replaces static stretching is short-sighted. One doesn’t replace the other, any more than Nautilus machines replaced free weights (or television replaced radio). They each have their place. The millions of people throughout the world who have used Stretching will continue to use and benefit from the book. Competitive athletes and their coaches will continue evolving warming-up and stretching techniques, finding the best combination for optimum performance and avoidance of injury.

Stretching for ordinary people (such as office workers or computer users) is about feeling your body, paying attention to stiffness and flexibility. Tune into your body, never push things to the point of pain, never bounce, or do extreme stretches. Focus on how each stretch feels. Be sensitive to your body. You don’t need a Ph.D. to tell you how you feel, any more than you “ …need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Try some stretches (for example, pp 15–21) and you be the judge.

* My type of stretching isn’t strictly “static.” It consists of a two-phase stretch: the easy stretch, where you relax into the stretch, is followed by the developmental stretch, where you move it a little farther — always paying close attention to how your body feels.