New Ideas on Proper Stretching Techniques
Some stretching routines may hinder, not help, your athletic performance.
7 Things You Need to Know about Proper Stretching Techniques continued...
Holcomb recommends brisk walking or slow jogging for about five minutes, rather
than stretching before exercise. "Warming up increases blood flow, which
increases the temperature in the muscle, which makes the collagen fibers more
elastic like a rubber band," he explains.
After warming up, do dynamic (not static) stretches. Dynamic
stretching means slow, controlled movements rather than remaining still and
holding a stretch. They may include simple movements like arm circles and hip
rotations, flowing movements as in
yoga, or walking or jogging exercises like those mentioned below. While
studies have not clearly proven this, increasing numbers of experts agree that
dynamic stretching is the best stretching routine before a workout or
competition. Levine warns, however, that proper technique is key. "Poor
technique that is not anatomically correct puts you at higher risk for
Holcomb recommends three all-purpose dynamic stretches for your lower
- Goose-step march: Slowly lift your leg straight out in front of you,
alternating as you walk with your normal stride length. While others may think
you're doing a Monty Python skit, it is an effective hamstring stretch.
- Knee lifts: As you're jogging or walking, bring knees up toward your chest.
For a variation, as your right knee comes up, twist the lifted leg gently to
the left and your upper body gently to the right for a spinal twist. Repeat on
each side as you jog or walk (warning: you may be mistaken for a
- Butt-kick: As you jog or walk, bend one knee and lift it behind you as if
you were trying to kick yourself in the butt. It's not punishment; it stretches
Do several repetitions of 30 seconds each at your own pace. The point is to
do the movements in a controlled way. Stop if you get tired so you still have
energy for your workout.
Consider yoga. "Isn't it interesting that this new research is
figuring out what yoga teachers have known for thousands of years?" says Mary
Pullig Schatz, MD, a retired surgical pathologist, yoga expert, and author of
Back Care Basics. If you're familiar with yoga basics, she suggests, you
can use those moves as dynamic stretches before, say, a run or a long bike
ride. Try two minutes of sun salutations to stretch multiple parts of the body.
Or make downward-facing dog dynamic by pedaling your feel or lifting alternate