Thursday, January 3, 2008

Static Stretching and Active Stretching

After finishing an indoor cycling class this week I noticed a rather fit looking gentleman in the club getting ready for a run on the treadmill. After lacing up his sneaks, he proceeded to do some old school runner's stretches COLD! It made my legs hurt just looking at him.
There is plenty of evidence out there showing the benefits of static stretching AFTER your muscles are warm. Stretching with cold muscles is not only potentially dangerous but has also been shown to reduce the ability of your muscles to contract (less power).
Active stretching is something that many of us do during our warmup without even thinking about it. As cyclists, we tend to start pedaling easy with a bit of a lower cadence, gradually bringing up the effort as the blood starts to flow. If you add in some out of the saddle work along with some exaggerated pedaling action, you have just accomplished some simple active stretching of the muscles you will be using. Runners simply need to add some strides, skipping, knee raises and heel kicks to actively stretch the muscles. When strength training, doing an easier set with a lighter weight will take care of the stretch, just make sure you focus on a full range of motion with your active warmup.
These active stretches will make you feel stronger, allow you to get up to speed faster and help prevent injury all at the same time. Static stretching post workout is still a must to increase flexibility, just make sure the muscles are plenty warm first.

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