I remember back in the day when my High School soccer team would gather for stretches before practice. The stretching I’m talking about are the static stretches where you hold one position for longer periods of time. We had this great routine and would do it every time. Literally every sport I was ever in had a series of stretches that would be performed before the activity. Originally, we were all informed that stretching prevents cramping and injury, so to not stretch could be potentially harmful. Today, there are many experts out there with research to show that stretching before an activity actually is not beneficial to us before a routine and can even cause injury. For this reason, I have dug a little deeper and answer the question “Is Stretching Good For You?” Also, if stretching is not good, then what should we be doing?
The Purpose of Stretching
The purpose of stretching is to do a multitude of things. When done right, it will bring better circulation and blood-flow which is essential for overall performance and health. You will benefit from increased range of motion which is essential for gymnasts, martial artists, and athletes alike. It is also important in the arena of preventing injury. By now your thinking,”GREAT…so whats the deal?” Well, notice how I mention these things after stating “When done right.” There is a bad side to stretching you need to be aware of.
Stretching Is Bad
The problem with stretching is really in the timing more so than the act of stretching. When stretching before a workout, game, or other strenuous activity, you will actually be doing your body more harm than good. Old and recent studies show that you can lose anywhere from 5-8% of your body’s full strength after doing stretches where you hold a position for a long period of time. Hundreds of studies have been done to prove this to be true. Nobody knows exactly why, but believe it has to do with the stretching of the tendons and muscles losing their ability to store energy and bounce into action. This is the reason why timing is key to stretching, and why it shouldn’t be done before your activity.
Stretch At The Right Time
Stretching after a workout or performance of any kind is where stretching really comes into play. After such an activity your muscles and tendons are more than likely knotted and tight. In order for healthy healing and improved performance the next round, stretching will help to relax the muscles, loosen those tight tendons, and iron out the knots. In the end your muscles will come back bigger and stronger, and you will be ready to get back into action even faster.
Replace The Stretch
So what should you do before the big game or a workout? The type of warming up you should do will be more of a dynamic or active stretch. It will involve multiple movements at short bursts of motion to prep and fire up your muscles and tendons for action. Experts suggest movements that will mimic the movements you will be making to perform your activity. Some of these movements may be done through jumping jacks or toy soldier high kicks. Another great dynamic stretch that can be performed is in the video below.