Many people wonder – should I stretch? Or shouldn’t I? Before exercise? After?
A number of studies over the years conclude that dynamic stretching – combined with a short warm-up – before exercise, followed by static stretching after activity is beneficial. Stretching in this manner works to improve performance and decrease the possibility of injury.
Here are our guidelines for safe (and effective!) stretching:
Static stretching is NOT part of a warm-up. Throw rubber bands into ice water and then pull on them, what happens? They snap! A similar occurrence can happen to your tendons when you hold a static stretch with a cold muscle. Begin your workout with easy jogging or stationary cycling (about 10 minutes worth) before beginning dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching before and static stretching after. Don’t hesitate to use the same stretches before and after a workout, just be sure to do the dynamic stretches before and static stretches after.
Do NOT bounce. Bouncing while stretching causes micro tears in your muscles. There tears lead to scar tissue, which then makes you less flexible. And yes, this can cause pain. Bouncing while stretching can cause more tightness and pain than you would experience without stretching.
Stretching should NOT hurt. If your PT at Accel is stretching you during rehab, there may be times you need to push through pain. However, stretching for athletic performance is a release and should not be painful. Any feeling beyond mild tension, you are taking it too far.
Stretch on a regular basis. You may say you don’t have time, or that it’s uncomfortable, but if you are able to stretch a few times a week, you will be able to push yourself harder and farther while working out. You’ll find that your body has increased range of motion and will not have struggle with relative flexibility. Stretching will keep your body aligned and reduce the risk of injury.