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Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching Before Physical Activity?



Many of us are aware that it is important to warm up before performing physical activity but are not sure where to start; We try our best to remember our favorite stretches from Phys Ed class, do a light jog and get on with our workout. This may not be the case for you, but it is a typical warm up routine for many.

Traditionally the most common form of stretching in a warmup routine was static stretching. Static stretching usually involves moving a limb to the end of its range of motion and holding this stretched position. In other terms: static = no movement. There are numerous benefits from this type of stretching which could explain its high popularity:

  • Improve flexibility

  • Improve range of motion

  • Stress relief

  • Reduce muscle pain


You might be surprised to know that there are also some neurological effects from static stretching! More specifically, this type of stretching will decrease motor neuron excitability and decrease motor unit activity (a fancy way of saying it will reduce the ability of your muscle to contract). For this main reason, many scientific studies in the early 2000’s have shown that static stretching can impair muscle activity and negatively affect sport performance.

Don’t be mistaken, this is not the excuse you have been waiting for to eliminate static stretches from your schedule, but you should avoid them immediately before engaging in physical activity. Static stretching used in a separate training session can provide muscle and joint related health benefits. Luckily there are other forms of stretching that can allow you to feel more loose before your activity and better prepare your muscles for the activity.

Dynamic stretching is a great alternative to static stretching for your warm up, it involves using active movements to reach the limits of range of motion in a repetitive fashion. Often this may look like a swinging or bouncing motion, but the force of the swing/bounce is gradual and should always be done with control. This type of stretching is favorable before a workout because it allows us to improve range of motion and tissue length without any negative effect on muscle contraction. Some studies have shown that longer duration dynamic stretching sessions can even increase speed and power!


That being said, your warm up routine should include:


1. Low intensity cardiovascular activity


o Increase body temperature

o Increase circulation

o Increase nerve conduction


2. Dynamic stretching


o Increase range of motion

o Improve muscle performance

o Improve body awareness


3. Sport specific drills


o Improve complex movement patterns

o Reduce the risk of injury


If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at info@maxmoncton.ca. To book a physiotherapy appointment call (506) 388-1333 or visit maxmoncton.ca and click on the Book an Appointment button at the top of the page to book online.




Written by Gilles Fougère, PT

Photos from canvas.com




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