The type of stretching we do most commonly in exercise to music classes is known as “static stretching”.
During the course of a 25 year career in fitness & dance, stretching has always been much debated. When, what, and how long for. Research has been contradictory over these years and I always read the latest 'current thinking' with interest. I would observe that for my area of fitness delivery I do see evidence of the benefits of stretching both once the body is warm (preparatory stretches) and at the end of the workout. Both for my body and for those of my clients.
Some reports state that there is little, if any, evidence that stretching pre- or post-participation prevents injury or subsequent muscle soreness. Recent research further suggests that whilst the stretches at the end of a warm-up may not be necessary for a general population (seniors are recommended), the stretches after a workout remain a good idea. Therefore the qualified and experienced teacher must make a decision based on their knowledge and experience, the age of the class and the type of activity followed during a class as to how best to prescribe stretching.
Stretches should be taken once the body has built some heat: 10 – 15 minutes into activity, even longer if it is very cold. At this point you hold them for 8-10 seconds only. Then at the end of a lesson, or activity, stretches should be held for 20-30 seconds. The correct alignment and posture is crucial. Stretches can be taken standing, seated or lying down.
It is a good idea to instigate a simple stretching programme into your everyday routine and it is a little known fact that a warm bath is a sufficient warm-up to just stretch your muscles – indeed if you feel agile and safe enough some stretches can even be taken in the bath, but be very careful!!
Here are some stretches, (most definitely not taken in the bath, phew!) for main muscle groups that you can use, if you are unsure make sure you catch a class for full instruction which will give you the confidence to practise these safely: