TO STRETCH OR NOT TO STRETCH?
Stretching and warm-up seem to be a controversial topic. Some athletes swear by it, some don’t pay any attention. The research on how useful it is shows mixed results, as well.
Although many hobby-athletes ignore it, doctors and physical therapists recommend to spend your time for a warmup before a training session. Same goes for stretching.
Muscles respond better to the stress the body puts on them when they’ve been warmed up. Warming up can be as simple as walking up to 10 minutes or a set of dynamic stretches that improve motor skills and increase flexibility.
Benefits of stretching
There is no doubt that stretching plays a positive role in successful prevention and rehabilitation of many cases of injuries. Physical therapists prescribe targeted stretching exercises to rehabilitate and prevent recurrence of different injuries that are frequently associated with abnormal tightness in muscles and tendons. Proposed benefits of stretching include faster recovery, decreased injury rates, and improved flexibility.
Even if you don’t suffer from any injuries, exercise can shorten a person’s muscles, decreasing mobility over time. Stretching keeps the muscles in the body flexible, so that the muscles and joints are at their fullest range of motion.
Flexibility is one of the five components of fitness, meaning that it is obvious that stretching should be an integral part of every workout program. Stretching decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion which may slow the degeneration of the joints. It also improves mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance. Since a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements.
Do it smart!
It’s important to stretch smartly and safely. Before your workout – dynamic stretches, after your workout, the simplest old-fashioned static stretches are best. Serious athletes and people who have chronically tight problem areas should perform a dynamic flexibility work several times a week as a strength and conditioning session in it’s own. Yoga, qigong, shindo, gymnastics – all is good.
Never perfom bouncing movements when stretching.
Ballistic stretching uses bouncing movements to push your body beyond its natural range of motion. This type of stretching puts you at risk for pushing a muscle or tendon beyond its current capacity and inducing injury. If a stretch is causing pain, back off a little. Continuing to stretch may only worsen it.