Despite the fact that in recent years it has been in vogue to discredit the value of stretching, the combination of dynamic and static stretching—when used at the right time—can have a big impact on increasing flexibility and improving performance.
Dynamic movement stretches are designed to take a joint/muscle through a challenging and repetitive motion, moving a body part farther with each repetition. Reducing hip stiffness prior to taking off on a run or ride will reduce the risk of the dreaded overuse injury. Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to exercise to prepare the joints for movement and muscles for optimal activation.
Do these before
Inchworms: Start in pushup position and walk your feet as close to your hands as possible. When you can’t go farther, stop and walk your hands out in front to return to pushup. Come down on stomach and arch your back up for a spine stretch.
Leg swings: Stand sideways next to a wall, and swing outside leg forward and back, increasing height each time.
Walking lunge with twist: Perform deep walking lunges to stretch the hips, twisting torso away from the back leg.
Static sustained stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint/muscle that is minimally challenging. The focus is on relaxing the body part being stretched and letting it go farther on its own. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue; conversely, done prior to activity, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.
Do these after
Frog stretch: Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Turn toes out and squat down as low as possible, keeping heels flat on the floor. Press knees open with elbows.
Quad stretch: While standing, grab the top of your right foot and bring it closer to your glutes, while pushing hips forward.
Pigeon: On the ground, bring a bent right leg in front of your body with your left leg behind you to stretch your glutes.