Benefits of Stretching
Research on Stretching
There is controversy over the effects of stretching: can it really prevent muscle overuse and injuries? The current research suggests that stretching can decrease pain and soreness after exercise. However, no evidence supports the theory that stretching immediately before exercise can prevent overuse or acute injuries. These studies found that warming up by itself has no effect on range of motion, but that when the warm-up is followed by stretching there is an increase in range of motion. Many people misinterpreted this finding to mean that stretching before exercise prevents injuries, even though the clinical research suggests otherwise. A better interpretation is that warm-up prevents injury, whereas stretching has no effect on injury. If injury prevention is your primary objective the evidence suggests you should limit stretching before exercise and increase warm-up.
Guidelines for Stretching
Most important: don’t bounce. Use “static” stretching. Static stretching involves a slow, gradual and controlled elongation of the muscle through the full range of motion and held for 15-30 seconds in the farthest comfortable position (without pain). No pain, no gain should not be your guideline here. As you stretch your muscles, you should feel pulling, but no pain. As you hold the stretch, your muscle will relax. As you repeat the stretch, you should have more range of motion. As you feel less tension you can increase the stretch again until they feel the same slight pull. Hold this position until you feel no further increase.
Stretching exercises to try out!
Some stretching exercises to get you started as explained by Brian Mackenzie, UK Athletics Senior Coach:
l Sit on the ground with both legs straight out in front of you
l Bend the left leg and place the sole of the left foot alongside the knee of the right leg
l Allow the left leg to lie relaxed on the ground
l Bend forward keeping the back straight
l You will feel the stretch in the hamstring of the right leg
l Repeat with the other leg
l Stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent
l Hold you arms out to the side parallel with the ground and the palms of the hand facing forward
l Stretch the arms back as far as possible
l You should feel the stretch across your chest