Stretch for better fitness

Stretch for range of motion

Photo: rjs1322 CC By 2.0

At one time it was normal to see athletes stretching before a game. The image of a baseball or football team doing their warm-ups assuredly includes stretching their upper and lower bodies. Or the jogger stretching their calves, thighs, and hamstrings before setting off at the local park.

Have you ever seen a runner pull up lame with a hamstring or groin pull? How about a soccer player with stress injuries to their knees? Or the baseball or tennis player with tennis elbow? Could it be that performing these static or ballistic stretches prior to exercise is not doing what they are supposed to do?

Modern practice in collegiate and professional ranks of athletes do not rely on stretching prior to playing their sport. A proper warm-up should not be avoided in order to get the muscles, ligaments, and joints a proper primer. Studies have shown that doing stretches decreases power in explosive events such as sprinting. It has also been shown doing little to nothing to avoid injury.

If we are not supposed to stretch at the beginning of exercise, are we supposed to stretch at all? Absolutely. Stretching is a good thing, and has its proper place; after the workout has concluded, and the cool-down has taken place. At this point, using a technique such as static stretching is not a bad thing. Ballistic stretching, think stretching while bouncing, is best left undone. Still, there are some that feel that static stretching is a thing of the past as well.

At the end of a training session, the muscles, ligaments and joints are fully ready to be pampered. Gentle stretching helps to alleviate Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), the tremendous soreness one gets a few days after working out.

Stretching at the conclusion of a workout is an increase in Range of Motion (ROM). Studies have shown this, as well as common sense observation. It is this writers opinion that any injury reduction that may occur is become of the improved ROM.

One last benefit to stretching is the relaxation standpoint. Taking a few minutes to do some slow stretching after intense training is a sure way to reduce stress. Anytime that we can reduce stress, it has to be a good thing.

So, take a few minutes after your next workout in order to stretch out, and reap the benefits.

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One Response to “Stretch for better fitness”

  1. Tim says:

    I have been reading a lot lately about stretching at the end of my workout. It’s hard though when I’ve been trained since little league to stretch at the start. Thanks for another great post.

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