Forgetting about stretching is a common mistake we all commit. Perhaps, we build up the mileage or load up the bar. We feel that we are thriving until injuries, stiffness, and fatigue affects our performance and quality of life. That’s why incorporating a stretching routine into your training program is a smart move. Learn about the benefits of stretching, and start now.
As you become more educated about it, you will discover that almost every athlete needs a certain minimum amount of stretching. Others had never paid any attention to it and then started stretching and had their bodies completely reshaped. One such athlete was David Goggins, an American ultra-marathoner and a navy seal. David experienced many injuries followed by many surgeries. I’ve heard him talk about stretching and how it changed his athletic performance and how he feels on a daily basis; it changed his entire life. In his memoir, You Can’t Hurt Me, David writes:
Thanks to all that stretching, I’m in better shape at forty-three than I was in my twenties. Back then I was always sick, wound tight, and stressed out. I never analyzed why I kept getting stress fractures. I just taped that shit up. No matter what ailed my body or my mind I had the same solution. Tape it up and move the fuck on. Now I’m smarter than I’ve ever been. And I’m still getting after it.david goggins
Stretching Enhances Your Overall Flexibility and Range of Motion
In 2008 an article in the Journal of Physical Education1suggested that stretching “has been shown to improve flexibility, which was previously believed to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.” Although, the same article reminds us that other research2 “have suggested that stretching may decrease muscle strength, which would compromise performance.”
However, a study by Herman, SL and Smith, Dt, published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research3, in which they “incorporated a 4-week” dynamic stretching warmup (DWU) into the training program of a group of collegiate wrestlers and see how it affected their overall performance. They found out that the 4-week DWU intervention they incorporated, made positive improvements “in the majority of performance measures that assessed power,speed, agility, endurance, flexibility, and strength”. And according to the same study, “Sport-specific stretching exercises should be introduced into a warm-up immediately following the 2 to 3 minutes of light activity.”
Stretching Can Help You Prevent Injury
There are four types of stretching techniques. Static, Dynamic, Ballistic, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). Each has its pros and cons. And while the static option–holding a muscle in a fixed position for an extended period of time, after moving it past a certain range of motion (ROM) and oftentimes anything past that point in ROM involves pain and we all experience it–is the most popular option, it is not always the most effective technique for injury prevention.
Stretching Can Relieve Pain
If you experience chronic pain, and you go visit your doctor, chances are beside drugs and scanning, he will advise you to join a yoga class. And what is yoga but a form of stretching!
“Stretching increases the flexibility of the tissues being stretched. It helps to loosen the tension in your muscles, de-stresses them, and thus helps you manage your mental stress as well,” says Amy Stein, author of Heal Pelvic Pain.
Don’t take it too far
“There are, however, reasons to be cautious about stretching to the limits of pain because of the risk of causing damage” says Muanjai et al.4 and so while stretching regularly may improve flexibility and increase your range of motion, don’t take it too far. The same study suggests that static stretching for a long period of time may even cause inflammation and loss of strength. So be careful and use it wisely.
Warmup for 10-15 minutes. Then, begin the stretching process immediately. Breathe in a slow rhythm that you are able to control. Do not bounce or move in a silly way lest you get yourself injured. The stretch should be gentle. You should reach a kind of pain sweet spot that you can maintain so that it is neither too easy and thus provide no stimuli nor too hard and therefore lead to injury. “The body, and in particular the body part being stretched, must not be under excessive tension, which explains why some athletes injure themselves after practicing their sport when they conclude their training with rough stretches,” says Oscar Moran (author of this stretching encyclopedia), and hence preferably, stretch before the exercise not after it.
- (2008) Department Editor Sought • Reviewers’ Workshop Set • Fat but Healthy? • Benefits of Stretching, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 79:9, 3-8, DOI: 10.1080/07303084.2008.10598237
- Duane Knudson (1999) Stretching during Warm-Up: Do We Have Enough Evidence?, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 70:7, 24-27, DOI: 10.1080/07303084.1999.10605682
- Herman, Sonja L1,2; Smith, Derek T2,3 Four-Week Dynamic Stretching Warm-up Intervention Elicits Longer-Term Performance Benefits, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 4 – p 1286-1297 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318173da50
- Muanjai, P., Jones, D.A., Mickevicius, M. et al. The acute benefits and risks of passive stretching to the point of pain. Eur J Appl Physiol 117, 1217–1226 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-017-3608-y