Many people are afraid to stretch before their workouts, because studies have shown that it can reduce power and athletic performance. What most people don’t know, however, is that this only happens if you perform static stretching for over 60 seconds. People who wish to do static stretch, therefore, need to be mindful about duration. Active and dynamic stretching such as Essentrics, on the other hand, do not carry this risk and concern. In fact, dynamic stretching can enhance muscular strength and exercise performance.
There is more than one way to stretch
When it comes to stretching, most people only think of static stretch, or stretching while holding still. In reality there are different ways to do so:
Static stretching exceeding 60 seconds impairs performance
The fear and controversy over stretching stemmed from studies showing that static stretching reduced maximum strength and power for up to 10 minutes. This led to fears that stretching would weaken muscles. However, when all of these studies got put together - 106 in total - a clear pattern emerged:
Only static stretching done for over 60 seconds would reduce strength and impair athletic performance.
Dynamic stretching does not carry similar risks
While static stretching above certain a threshold has negative effects, active and dynamic stretching do not carry such risks. Instead, active stretching enhances tensile tissue strength, while dynamic stretching improves flexibility and neuromuscular control. Both are therefore most appropriate before physical activity. In the US, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends the following:
Essentrics is a full-body dynamic stretching program. Based on NASM’s recommendation, you may ask: is Essentrics appropriate prior to physical activities if one has muscle imbalances? The answer is yes.
Essentrics rebalances the full body
In conventional training programs, static or dynamic stretching constitutes the warm up or cool down of a routine, representing only about 5 to 10 minutes of a typical hour-long session. Essentrics routines, however, are often 22 minutes to one hour, engaging all the kinetic chains. Each session rebalances the full body, whether the goal is to activate muscles, cool them down, or provide a complete workout. This rebalancing effect smartly prepares for and complements other exercises and sports.
Stretching isn’t just for warm ups and cool downs, it can be a workout
Most studies on stretching focused on static stretching and using it as a warm up. Yet there are many ways to stretch, and stretching isn’t just for warming up and cooling down. Essentrics, for example, employs ballet, tai chi and physiotherapy techniques to not only enhance flexibility but also provide a vigorous toning and strengthening workout. It is therefore time to rethink our stretching options, and consider stretching both as a complementary or standalone exercise!
To Stretch or Not Prior to Exercise? A systematic review of the effects of acute static stretching on maximal muscle performance
January 23, 2012 Darin A. Padua, PhD, ATC
Effect of Acute Static Stretching on Maximal Muscle Performance: A Systematic Review. Kay AD, Blazevich AJ. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 44(1): 154-164, 2012.