Static stretches have been scientifically proven to be LESS effective than dynamic warmups. In fact, static stretching can actually reduce muscular strength and endurance for your workout. In order to improve the effectiveness of your workouts, you should be doing primarily dynamic stretches.
But there are a few occasions when a static stretch can help to loosen up a particularly tight muscle or reduce your risk of pulling something. But make sure you’re doing the right static stretches–not the stretches below that will waste your time:
Lying Double Quad Stretch
This is NOT an easy stretch to do, so it has to be a good one, right? Wrong! You’ll see this stretch among Yoga practitioners: kneeling down, then slowly leaning backward until your back is touching the floor and your quads are stretched out. This movement won’t stretch your quads, and it’s more than likely to mess up your hips and knees. You don’t get that good quad stretch because your hips are too stiff to get the proper stretch. Avoid this one like the plague.
Standing Quad Stretch with Arm Raise
You often see a version of this stretch in Yoga practice–it’s called the Royal Dancer. But if you’re not doing Yoga, you shouldn’t do this one. Raising your arm just forces you to focus on your balance, completely detracting from the main focus: the quad stretch. Stand against a wall or hold something to keep your balance as you do this stretch, and make sure that you pay your quads the proper amount of attention.
Shoulder/Tricep Cross Stretch
You know this stretch: the one where you bring your arm straight across your chest and pull on it with the other arm. It’s meant to stretch out your back, your triceps, and the back of your shoulders, which is why just about every gym teacher and coach uses it in their warmups. But did you know that it’s a waste of time? If you spend a lot of time hunched over a desk, your shoulders and triceps are likely fairly loose. The tightness is in the front of your shoulders and chest, not your back. Doing this stretch may actually promote more hunching, leading to an increasingly poor posture. Skip it!
This is an odd half-split stretch, with your back knee bent at an awkward angle. It’s designed to stretch the inner thighs and groin muscles, but is it doing any good? This position twists your knee and places strain on the meniscus, as well as the medical collateral ligament. It makes it more likely that you will injure your knees while working out. It’s best to avoid this stretch as much as possible, as that will help you to reduce your risk of knee injuries!
Standing Knee Pull
This is a goofy-looking stretch, and one that doesn’t really serve a purpose. Standing and pulling your knees to your chest may make you feel like you’re stretching it out, but do you know what muscles you’re stretching? Hamstrings? Glutes? Calves? Thighs? Lower back? Skip this one–it’s just a huge waste of time!
You often see this one at the gym as people are warming up for leg day. They want to give their hamstrings a good stretch in order to reduce the risk of injury. But is it actually going to do any good? It may loosen up the hamstrings a bit, but it also increases the strain on the discs in your lower back. This makes you more likely to have a lower back injury while squatting, lunging, or pressing.