What is Stretching?
Stretching is defined as the lengthening of muscles in order to increase muscle flexibility and improve joint range of motion. Stretching activities are a very important part of any exercise or rehabilitation program.
There are a few different goals that can be accomplished from stretching. Before you begin stretching, ask yourself what you are looking to do.
2 Basic Types of Stretching
The million dollar question that comes up a lot is when to stretch. Should you stretch before or after exercise?
Research shows that static stretching before exercise or sport shows no incidence of reducing injury risk and static stretching prior to exercise can actually lower your physical performance. Static stretching helps to relax your muscles and this is not something that you want to do prior to engaging in physical activity.
So what should you do? Dynamic stretching helps to activate and warm up your muscles prior to activity. Research suggests that dynamic stretching prior to exercise can actually improve performance by increasing blood flow to muscles, speed of nerve impulses, and oxygen delivery while increasing flexibility and force of muscle contraction. Although dynamic stretching can help to improve your physical performance, research does not explicitly show that it will decrease risk for injury.
While static stretching before exercise may not be the best idea, static stretching does still have its benefits. Post-exercise muscles tend to get stiff and this is where static stretches can help. Performing static stretches immediately post workout can help to return the muscle to its pre-exercise length and help prevent further stiffness.
How Long Should You Hold a Stretch? How Often?
Holding a stretch for at least 30 seconds, once a day, has been shown to be effective in increasing muscle length and flexibility. Research shows that holding for longer than 30 seconds and increasing frequency for more than once per day does not have any significant increased benefits for improved flexibility.
It is also important to be consistent with your stretching and know that you will most likely not see any improvements overnight. On average, it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to seen an actual change in muscle length from stretching regularly. So keep it up and don’t get discouraged if you do not see results immediately.
When Not to Stretch?
Key Points to Remember
Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is compiled from a variety of professional sources as well as the author's own experiences. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit to your healthcare provider or used to disregard any advice provided by your healthcare provider.