Proper Stretching For Proper Activity
Why do you stretch before a workout? For flexibility? To loosen up and prepare muscles for lifting? Cardio? There are different stretches for different levels of activity. Static stretching for flexibility because, when you want to obtain flexibility you NEED to lengthen your muscles! Thats exactly what static stretching is used for. The constant tension gradually brings your joints to their full range of motion and thus is the definition of flexibility. Now, with that being said. Static stretching for lifting and cardio is NOT such a good idea. You don’t want to lengthen the muscles in that way, they need a more dynamic approach to ready the muscles for the appropriate activity and mere flexibility is not what you need for explosive movements. It actually hinders them to be honest. You runs get slower, your lifts get weaker. Your muscles are primed for the wrong activity. They need to be shortened and warmed up, not lengthened. Explosive action comes from the shortening or contractions of the muscle (Eccentric and concentric motions for lifting. Extension, dorsiflexion, and plantarflexion for cardio). When a muscle is lengthened that is described as isometric (tension developed without contraction of a muscle). Think of your muscles in this sense as a rubberband. What makes a rubberband stretch? Entropy. Entropy is the degree of disorder or randomness in a system (unstretched/tight muscles in this case). We want to reduce the level of entropy to increase functionality. When the rubberband is unstretched its just a jumbled mess. Conversely, when it is stretched the polymer chains in the rubber (in the case of muscles its the fibers) align into ordered arrangements primed for action. Matter of fact, when you stretch a rubberband touch it to your face. I bet its warm/hot. Now, when you release it the opposite will happen. It returns back to its original state. Relating to muscles, we DO NOT want it to return back to its original state because that will increase injury risk. In a dynamic exercise environment (cardio, lifting, sports) we want the muscles to be able to constantly contract properly without breaking or returning to original entropic form. This could best be described as repetitively stretching the rubberband. Keep in mind though stretching it too far or too much can damage it, much like muscle does under similar pressure.