Static stretches are part of an effective cool down because they can help

A) Improve performance.

B) Decrease blood flow.

C) Prevent overload.

D) Increase range of motion.

Diagram of a person completing a simple stretch exercise
Diagram of a person completing a simple chest stretch exercise

The correct answer is B: Decrease blood flow.

Static stretches are a type of exercise that can be done at the end of an exercise routine. They are a part of an effective cool down because they help to decrease blood flow to tissues. To do static stretching means to stretch and hold in a set position for about 10 to 45 seconds. It is considered by many experts to be a rather safe and effective exercise.

Various stretching exercises are also important to do before undertaking any form of intense exercise. These stretches help to warm up the muscles before starting exercise and are believed to help prevent injuries during many sports activities.

There are different types of stretches that one can do, and just as it is important to stretch at the start of your exercise routine, it is also important to do it at the end after you are finished.

This is because it is important to warm your muscles up at the start of exercise and to cool your muscles at the end of the exercise. Dynamic stretches are best for the start of your exercise routine while static stretches are best for the end of your exercise routine.

Static stretches

A static stretch is a stretching exercise in which a stretch is kept in position for a period of time that ranges from about 10 seconds to 45 seconds.

Static stretches work to stretch a muscle to the point where you feel some discomfort and the stretch is held in place for a period of time. It is important to realize that when you are stretching a muscle you are really lengthening the muscle cells (myofibrils).

Researchers have investigated the effect of static stretches on blood flow in the leg arteries. In fact, static stretches can help to decrease blood flow and cool the muscles down. It is recommended that the static stretches be done at the end of an exercise program rather than at the beginning.

Stretching is very beneficial and in fact, stretch exercises have shown to be helpful for obese people. The stretch exercises help with hypertension that is often a problem in obese individuals.

In addition, static stretches can help with flexibility. For instance, static stretches of the hamstring muscles have been shown to increase the flexibility and range of motion of the muscles over time.

Types of static stretches

There are various types of static stretches that you can do. For instance, you can do a hamstring stretch while you are seated. You do this by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. You then reach for your toes and keep this position from 30 to 45 seconds.

For stretching your quads you stand with both feet on the ground and then lift one leg up behind you. Hold the foot in position for 30 to 45 seconds. Do this for both legs to stretch both quadriceps muscles.

To stretch your shoulders simply pull your arm across your chest and hold it in position for 30 to 45 seconds. Do this for both arms to stretch both shoulders. Since these are static stretches you are meant to hold them in place for a period of time.

Dynamic stretches

Dynamic stretches are when you stretch a muscle but do not hold the stretch in position. The dynamic stretches work well to warm up the muscles before you start exercising.  The idea behind these exercises is that it increases body temperature.

An increase in body temperature causes an increase in blood flow to muscles. This, in turn, speeds up delivery of oxygen and glucose to the muscles and prepares them for the start of exercise.

The stretching decreases the risk of injury while playing a sport and it increases the overall flexibility of the muscles. Research has indicated that dynamic stretches can lead to improved performance and strength by athletes.

This was not the case for static stretching where no performance improvement was evident if done before exercising or playing a sport.

Muscle function

It is important to have a basic understanding of how your skeletal muscles work. Skeletal muscles consist of long muscle cells called myofibrils.

Each of these myofibrils consists of several types of proteins called myofilaments. Essentially the myofilaments slide against each other which is how your muscle contracts or shortens.

In order for muscles to function, they need to have a lot of sugar and energy. Energy in the form of ATP is generated when sugar is broken down in the cells during cellular respiration. This process depends on the presence of oxygen, so the more oxygen the cells get the better they are able to produce energy as ATP.

This ATP then is needed for the myofilaments to move and the muscle to contract. Stretching the muscles impacts the blood supply and delivery of oxygen and sugars to the muscles. The stretching also influences the temperature of the muscles which also influences the blood and oxygen supply.

At the start of exercise, you want the muscles to be warmer so that more blood and oxygen rush to the cells. At the end of the exercise, you do not need the muscles to have large amounts of oxygen as you want to relax. The different types of stretching can be used to help control the blood flow to the muscles.

The stretching is acting on the individual muscle cells and helps to increase the flexibility of these cells. This in turn then increases the flexibility of the overall muscle.

Different types of exercises, including stretches, help to exercise these muscles. It is important that the muscles are exercised correctly so that injury does not occur.

References

  1. CE Giangarra, RC Manske (2017). Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation: A Team Approach E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  2. FG Shellock, WE Prentice (1985). Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine.
  3. WD Bandy, JM Irion (1994). The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Physical therapy.
  4. W Van Mechelen, H Hlobil, HCG Kemper, WJ Voorn (1993). Prevention of running injuries by warm-up, cool-down, and stretching exercises. The American Journal of Sports Medicine.
  5. NT Kruse, CR Silette, BW Scheuermann (2016). Influence of passive stretch on muscle blood flow, oxygenation and central cardiovascular responses in healthy young males. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

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