Most people don’t know there are two kinds of stretches: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching is meant to be performed on cold muscles before a workout begins. It is a technique designed to improve the mobility of a group of muscles ahead of time in order to avoid injury. It does this by moving through a range-of-motion, most often in a way that mimics the activity someone is about to perform. This is a great stretch to do before cardio exercise such as running. On the other end of the spectrum is static stretching. This is when you hold a position for a matter of moments without moving, at the end-range of motion (extension). It is similar to yoga posing, but unlike yoga, static stretching isn’t as focused on breathing techniques. It’s more about improving your overall flexibility. It also aids in recovery after exercise and provides other healing benefits. This type of stretching is especially important in the field of bodybuilding.
When you do strength training at any level, your muscles are constantly contracting and shortening with each repetition. If you compete as a bodybuilder, this is even more pronounced. Performing a repetitive action with heavy weights will invariably leave muscle groups feeling stiff, especially if there is no stretching between sets or after the workout is completed. In addition, the act of repeatedly lifting weights is actually tearing muscle fibers. And not all muscle fibers are created the same. Fast-twitch muscle fibers can generate a lot of power but are quicker to tire out. For this reason, they respond best to heavyweights and few repetitions. In contrast, slow-twitch muscle fibers can handle being used for longer with less strain, so they can handle high repetitions as long as the weights are lighter.
Static stretching will help muscles to feel less sore because it returns blood flow to the muscles and lengthens them during the timed period of a static stretch. Much like completing multiple sets of an exercise, it’s recommended to do multiple sessions of static holds to get maximum benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine generally recommends holding each static stretch for a total of 60 seconds, with a minimum of 30 seconds.