There is always discussion and debate about why we stretch, how we should stretch, when we should stretch and if it is beneficial. There are medical studies showing the benefits of stretching as well as studies showing the downside. For most recreational and high school athletes, the advantages to stretching, especially after activity, outweigh the negatives. Previously we discussed dynamic warm-up and stretching as part of our pre-exercise/practice routine. Today we are going to discuss the more traditional method-static stretching.
First off, why do we stretch? Stretching is important for people of all ages. It can help increase your range of motion in joints and muscle elasticity allowing your joints and extremities to move further. It can help increase blood circulation. Because our range of motion and flexibility may improve, it can help us with better posture. Some people believe that stretching also helps decrease muscle soreness.
When should we stretch? Stretching can be done either pre or post activity. Or both. But, it should always be done after you have warmed up. Never stretch cold muscles as this can lead to injury or muscle strain.
How should we stretch? When doing static stretching, all stretches should be held for 30 seconds. This will help the muscle release some of its tension and allow you to get a better stretch and increase the muscle’s length. Never bounce during your stretch. This can cause the muscle to tighten and therefore increase your risk for muscle tears or strain. When you stretch, you should feel slight tension on the muscle you are stretching. You should not stretch to the point of pain. Never force the stretch. Always make sure you breathe when you are stretching. Breathe slowly and controlled. Some people like to have a slow exhale as they go into their stretching movement. Either way is OK, just don’t hold your breath.