In the last decades there have been a lot of discussion on the difference between flexibility and mobility, categorizing stretches and what not. We’ll leave most of that out in order to present a simple how-to guide. We’ll use the simplest categorization possible for our purposes: static stretching and dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching is used for warm ups, both lifting sessions and stretching sessions. As the name implies, there’s a dynamic component to them: movement.
Ideally you’ll start with a small movement in order to not strain anything. Take the leg swing for example (explained later in the book). You swing your leg front and back, starting with a short movement and gradually increase it over the course of repetitions. Perhaps you do 10 swings, only the last 3-4 swings might have the full amplitude of movement. This applies to all dynamic stretches in the book.
How many sets and reps? Whatever you need to do to feel like you’re loose enough to perform the task you’re warming up for. It might be one set or it might be three sets, it might be five reps per set or fifteen - play it by ear. There’s no magic in these numbers.
Static stretching have at times caught a bad rep. While some of it might have been deserved, categorically calling static stretching bad is simply false.
The most basic type of static stretching is to assume the stretched position and try to relax the muscle. Simply staying in the position will eventually cause the tensed muscle to ‘give out’ and you’ll be able to increase the stretch. The amount of time it takes varies. The goal is to reach that point, so arbitrarily saying you should stay in a position for 20 seconds or whatever is pointless. It will take the time it takes.
One way to speed up the process is to do the opposite: actively tense the muscle that you want stretched. Hold the tension for 5-10 seconds and then relax. You will immediately be able to increase the stretch. You can repeat this process one or two more times.
You shouldn’t overdo static stretching before training, it will make you weaker (remember that you’re actually fatiguing the muscle). Instead opt to only do the absolute necessary minimum prior to training and stretch more after the session or at a separate time in the day. I’m partial to doing static stretching before going to bed as it makes me sleep better.
If you do serious static stretching you’ll need to warm up properly for it. Either do dynamic stretching before your static stretching or start with a fairly comfortable stretched position and increasing it over the course of several sets.
In this book we’ll use both dynamic and static stretching.