To stretch or not to stretch?
There is a lot of different options regarding stretching, hopefully this will help answer some of your questions.
How it works
As wikipedia suggests, stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately stretched in order to improve the muscle’s felt elasticity. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion. Notably, the slower a stretch the more pliable the muscle becomes.
Muscles are elastic and pliable. Strength training increases muscle size but also shortens the length of each muscle fiber. And a stiff, short muscle moves less than a compliant one, even though it has more stored power.
Does it work?
Stretching for flexibility
Static stretching works, but maybe not as easily as you would imagine. A period of 4 to 6 weeks is needed to see measurable change, and stretches need to be performed on average 4 to 6 times a day, depending on the muscle group.
To maximise your stretching efforts perform after a warm-up or use heat/ice as both allow increased muscle pliability.
Stretching for reducing injury
My patients are often shocked when I tell them that the research has concluded that static stretching before or after exercise does not prevent injury. But if you follow the guidelines below, it does help a lot.
- If you’re stretching to improve flexibility…persevere! Remember it is not only muscle that governs how flexible you are. You may need to consider soft tissue massage or joint mobilisation as part of your flexibility program.
- To reduce your risk of injury, warm up before all exercise and spend the extra 10 minutes following a work out to cool down. As a rule of thumb you should be comfortable putting on an extra layer of clothing before you leave the gym.
- To recover from injury, isolate your muscle groups when you stretch and remember – be gentle.
- To improve power, don’t over stretch! Use dynamic stretches where possible (see below).
- To reduce muscle pain following a workout (DOMs) don’t stretch! Use ice, cold showers, anti-inflammatories or massage instead.
Static stretching is when a muscle is held in a lengthened position for a prolonged period of time, research shows 60 seconds is optimal.
Watch the clock, it’s longer than you think!
Dynamic stretching is done using bouncing movements at the end of range of a muscle. It is used mainly by power athletes and should only be done under appropriate guidance due to its potential to cause injury.
So there you go, I hope this answers some of your questions.
Want to know more check out this post – Stretching. Guaranteed to make you feel good.
Love your life.