6 things you need to know about stretching

6 things you need to know about stretching

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What’s the best way to stretch, and does it really help to prevent soreness and injury? Personal trainer Andrew Cate sorts fact from fiction and lets us in on what we need to know about stretching.

1. Stretching and warming up are not the same thing

The goal of a warm up is to prepare your body for movement by increasing blood flow to the muscles and joints.

Do this by gradually elevating your heart rate through large muscle movements such as brisk walking, slow jogging or cycling.

Then stretch your muscles after the body is warmed up, and not beforehand when they are cold.

Need to know

Don't stretch cold muscles. If stretching is a regular part of your pre-exercise routine, do it after your heart rate is elevated, not beforehand.

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2. Bouncing stretches can do more harm than good

Ballistic stretching uses bouncing movements to take your muscles and joints beyond their normal range of movement.

Unlike stretches which are performed slowly and gradually, ballistic stretches push muscles and further and faster. Unless you are an experienced athlete, or in the hands of a qualified trainer, ballistic stretching is not recommended, as it carries a risk of injury.

Need to know

If you just want to stay in shape or improve flexibility, bouncing or sudden movements during stretching are best avoided.

3. 3 ways you should be stretching  stretch

There are three other common techniques to improve your flexibility
  • Static stretching - The most familiar type of stretching where the targeted muscle group is extended to the point of strain, and held for 15 - 30 seconds
  • Dynamic stretching - Uses large movement patterns to stretch muscles and joints, such as jumping, kicking or arm / shoulder circles. It is a technique most commonly used as part of a warm-up
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching involves contracting and holding a targeted muscle in a stretched position

Need to know

Experiment with different stretching techniques to maximise flexibility.

4. Stretching before exercise doesn't prevent injury

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine investigated a group of exercisers who stretched their legs and trunk before and after physical activity.

When compared with a group that did not stretch,  the researchers found that stretching did not significantly reduce the risk of injury.

What if you enjoy a good stretch before you workout? The researchers say there is a perceived benefit for you add recommend that you still stretch before exercise. say that support the decision to stretch in people who believe stretching increases looseness.

It's also possible that people who engage in high intensity exercise involving all out effort may benefit more from a pre-workout stretch.

Need to know - Unless you have a history of injury, or intend to exercise intensely, stretching before moderate exercise is not necessary.

5. Stretching prevents muscle soreness

Muscle soreness may occur within 1 - 2 days after working out, especially in people who are starting a new exercise program, or who are engaging in a new type of activity.

On a positive note, the above mentioned study found that stretching did reduce the severity of post-exercise muscles soreness.

Need to know

Stretching after exercises can help to prevent muscles soreness, and is especially important if you are starting a new program of exercise

6. No pain, no gain does NOT apply to stretching

Pain is a warning sign that something isn't right.

In fact, experiencing pain during a stretch could be an indicator that you've pushed it too far.

For static stretches, ease in slowly until you feel mild discomfort and strain, but not pain. Hold it until the feeling of tension begins to diminish (usually after 5 - 10 seconds), when you can slowly ease into the stretch a little further.

Need to know

Stretching does not have to be painful to be beneficial.

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