Should We Still Stretch Before Exercising?
Stretching before sports: It is a practice that some coaches swear by and has been widely taught and accepted. Sometimes it is even mocked, as in the movie Blades of Glory where Will Ferrell seems to stretch his satin gym shorted legs for hours! However, based on its review of scientific literature, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) currently states that the benefit of stretching depends on the specific sport or activity being performed.
For sports requiring increased range of motion, such as gymnastics or weightlifting, Static Stretching (touching your toes, holding the pose for a few seconds, etc.) has been shown by researchers to increase performance. At the same time it, it is also thought to reduce the performance of individual muscles. This decrease can create less strength, speed or muscle reaction time. Static Stretching, like many things, should be undertaken with caution and used sparingly, certainly only to the point of comfort.
On the other hand, Dynamic Stretching has not been shown to reduce performance. Dynamic Stretching uses the whole range of motion required for the sport rather than just an individual muscle. An example of this could be when baseball players swing their bats in the air. This mimics the actual swings they are about to perform and uses all their muscles. Another example may be when a sprinter performs walking knee lifts while they await their turn at the starting block.
Stretching to Prevent Injury?
Based on scientific review, the NSCA goes as far as to say “there is little, if any, evidence that stretching pre or post-participation prevents injury or subsequent muscle soreness.” This is a big claim that opposes a longstanding belief in the exercise community. Opponents of this state that the absence of evidence is not proof that static stretching does not work.
There may be a debate about stretching. Still, scientists unanimously agree on the benefits of flexibility. While this may seem like common sense, flexibility is the ability of a muscle and joint to move fluidly. Stretching is a method that can be used to achieve this. Flexibility is great for performance and injury prevention. Trying to achieve flexibility by stretching immediately before performance will not make an individual more flexible. Flexibility should be improved on its own at a separate time through focused stretching sessions rather than as a pre-workout ritual immediately before exercise.
When Should an Athlete Stretch?
Scientists now advocate that those who want to improve their flexibility should do so either immediately following exercise or as a separate session altogether. Post-exercise stretching is best. The ideal timing is about 5 to 10 minutes of ending an exercise session. Your muscles are warm and already loose. You may be tired, but there is less chance you’ll overdo stretching at this point.
However, a tiny bit of stretching before you play is still okay. Try to get used to the idea of leaving yourself 15 or 20 minutes after your sports to work on increasing your flexibility then. Movement is vital to your good health, and we can expertly help you implement or customize a personal flexibility plan for your specific needs.