• Emma Martin

Stretching 101

Updated: Mar 8

You may think that stretching is only important for dancers and gymnasts, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Stretching is a very important part of staying fit and healthy for everyone, as flexibility is so important for a variety of reasons and stretching helps our muscles to both prepare for exercise, and to cool down after a workout.

What are the benefits of stretching?

Stretching doesn’t only keep our muscles flexible, but it also helps them to get stronger and to stay healthy. We need flexibility in our muscles to be able to maintain a healthy range of motion at each of our joints. Without flexibility, the muscles shorten in length, and can become tight. This then means that when you try to use those muscles during activity, they are weak and are restricted in their range. This can put the individual at a higher risk of developing joint pain, muscle strains, and muscle damage. Regular stretching helps to keep our muscles long, lean and flexible, and can also help improve our balance.

What is the difference between static and dynamic stretching? When should I do one vs. the other?

Static Stretching means a stretch held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time. This is the most common type of stretching and it is considered very safe and effective for improving overall flexibility. Evidence suggests that in order to gain any benefit from a static stretch, it must be held for longer than 20 seconds.

Dynamic Stretching means a stretch is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly. Although dynamic stretching requires more coordination when compared to static stretching, due to the movement and control involved, it is often favoured among athletes, coaches, trainers, and physical therapists because of its benefits in improving range of motion for functional movement, and mobility in sports and activities for daily living.

Note: Dynamic stretching is not to be confused with ballistic stretching.

It is now recommended that an active warm-up involving dynamic stretches is the most beneficial when preparing for any kind of physical activity or sport. Dynamic stretching doesn’t only help to improve the flexibility of the muscles before exercise but helps to warm up the body and get the muscles ready to work. It is recommended that the dynamic stretching part of your warmup should last for around 5 mins.

After a workout, it is easy to forget to cool down properly. However, this is a key moment to improve joint and muscle health. This can be done through static stretching. After exercise, the body is warm, and static stretching is a way to increase blood flow to the muscles and help improve overall flexibility and joint range of motion. The best way to reap the full reward of a hard workout, is to finish off with some static stretches. It is recommended that a total of 60 seconds be spent on stretching each muscle group. However, how that 60 seconds is achieved doesn’t really matter. This could mean either 3x 20 second holds for each muscle group on each side, or 2x 30 second holds.

Static: Hamstring Stretch
Examples of major muscle group stretches


1. Leg Swings

- Hold on to a wall or fixed surface.

- Swing one leg back and forth - as if you’re kicking a soccer ball.

- Ensure the movement is controlled and within a challenging and comfortable range.

- Complete approximately 10 swings on each side.

2. Side Knee Rocks

- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent.

- Gently rotate both of your knees from side to side, keeping your shoulders flat on the floor.

- Do not force the position of your knees.

- Complete approximately 10 rocks to each side.

Cool Down: STATIC

1. Hamstring Stretch

- Sit on the ground with one leg extended out in front of you.

- Touch your opposite foot to the extended knee.

- Reach forward with both hands down your extended leg until you can feel a comfortable stretch along the back of your leg.

- Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2x on each leg.

2. Quadriceps Stretch

- Hold on to a wall or fixed surface.

- Using the same arm as leg, grab your foot and pull your heel in towards your buttocks.

- Keep your knees together and ensure that your hips are in a neutral position.

- Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2x on each leg.

Static: Quadriceps Stretch

Before attempting any of these exercises at home, book an assessment with one of our physios today, to ensure they are safe and relevant for you.


© 2018 by BodyPlus Physiotherapy

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