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The New Rules of Stretching

by WoV

Forget high-school-gym wisdom. Use this myth-busting plan for breakthroughs in flexibility, performance, and injury prevention

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The Rules of Static Stretching

When: Any time  of day, except before a workout

Why: To improve general flexibility

How: Apply these guidelines:

Stretch twice a day, every day. Any less frequently and you won’t maintain your gains in flexibility—which is why most flexibility plans don’t work. Twice a day may seem like a lot, but each “session” will require as little as 4 minutes of your time. Also, there’s no need to “warm” your muscles before stretching; that’s a myth. So you can stretch at work, while you’re watching TV, or while you’re grilling burgers.

Keep in mind that duration matters. You can increase passive flexibility with a static stretch that’s held for as little as 5 seconds, but you get optimal gains by holding it between 15 and 30 seconds, the point of diminishing returns.

Finally, do just one stretch for each tight muscle. Because most of the improvements in flexibility are made on the first stretch, repeating the same movement provides little benefit.

What: Use these movements to stretch your entire body. Do as shown and, for all but number 2, switch sides and repeat the stretch with the opposite arm or leg.

Dynamic Stretching

A dynamic stretch is the opposite of a static stretch. In this version, you quickly move a muscle in and out of a stretched position. Example: A body-weight lunge is a dynamic stretch for your quadriceps and hips.

Here’s why the difference matters: Improvements in flexibility are specific to your body position and speed of movement. So if you do only static stretching—as most guys are advised—you’ll primarily boost your flexibility in that exact posture while moving at a slow speed. While certainly effective if you’re a contortionist, it has limited carryover to the flexibility you need in sports and weight training, which require your muscles to stretch at fast speeds in various body positions. That’s why dynamic stretching is a necessary component of any program: It improves your “active” flexibility, the kind you need in every type of athletic endeavor, like the one you would find in Martin Rooney’s intense Warrior Cardio training program.

Dynamic stretching also excites your central nervous system, and increases bloodflow, and strength and power production. So it’s the ideal warmup for any activity. And when you regularly perform both dynamic and static stretches, some of the flexibility improvements from one will transfer to the other.

The Rules of Dynamic Stretching

When: As a warmup before any type of workout or sport

Why: To improve performance and reduce injury risk

How: Perform five to eight body-weight exercises or calisthenics at a slow tempo and in a comfortable range of motion. Increase your range and speed with each repetition, until you’re performing the movement quickly from start to finish. Do one set of 10 repetitions of each exercise, one after the other. 

What: Try this sample routine of movements that are probably already familiar to you: jumping jacks, arm circles, trunk rotations, front lunges, side lunges, high knees, and body-weight squats.

For similar stories, click on Stretching.

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