Which Type of Flexibility Exercises are Best?

World's Greatest Stretch - Dynamic Flexibility ExerciseA Meeting of the Minds

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to listen to industry gurus like John Berardi, Dr. Don Chu, Mike Boyle, Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, and Mike Stone give their take on where the Health and Fitness Industry is headed. This annual conference  known as The Meeting of the Minds, covered topics that ranged widely from aspects of physical training to running a successful business. One I remember well, centered around the benefits of flexibility exercises, and which method is best used.

Static vs. Dynamic Flexibility Exercises

If you’re active, I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about the debate on which type of flexibility exercises are best – static, dynamic, ballistic (old-school bouncy), none at all. Dr. Don Chu spoke on the differences between static and dynamic stretching, and when they are, in his opinion, best performed. He mentioned flexibility exercises should not be seen as things performed in addition to resistance training, but actually as an entirely different entity. We should treat it with the same care and focus as we do resistance and cardiorespiratory training. Flexibility ultimately dictates how well we move.

Chu stated that performing dynamic stretches in the morning, before going about the day is actually better than static stretching, or no stretching at all. The movement from the dynamic stretching sets the length of the muscle spindle for the remainder of the day. The muscle spindle is a sensory receptor found inside the belly of the muscle that detects changes in muscle length, and communicates that to the nervous system. In essence, early morning dynamic stretching extends our perceived limits in range of motion, and in turn, allows us to move freely more naturally throughout the rest of the day.

Dr. Chu’s recommendations for a successful flexibility program were as follows:

  • Choose flexibility exercises that target all major areas of the body.
  • Perform dynamic flexibility exercises in the morning upon rising. (prisoner squat, etc)
  • Perform static flexibility exercises later in the day, or after exercise.
  • Perform strength training and/or cardio before flexibility work (static)
  • Perform a variety of 8-12 different static, active, and dynamic flexibility exercises.
  • For best results perform flexibility exercises 3-6x/week.
  • Set goals: have a time line, focus on you, keep a log, and stick to the schedule.

My 2 cents in this are that performing flexibility exercises will take you no longer than 15-20 minutes, even when taking your time. Most of us completely pass off stretching as a waste of time, but dynamic flexibility exercises before a “workout” are actually basic versions of regular exercises you may see in your routine. I’d also gladly spend a few minutes every morning after I wake up to stretch a little, if it means I’m going to feel better throughout the day. It’s healthier than coffee!