Is stretching a waste of time?
Stretching has been a form of injury prevention and recovery for decades now, yet I still find a lot of people are confused (rightfully!) on how, when and why we do it.
After working with elite sports teams and athletes within my career so far, I have found an array of ways that people choose to warm up, cool down and recover their muscles and joints. Fortunately, we have a lot of new science coming out every year that proves what’s best for our bodies when it comes to maintenance and injury prevention… but, unfortunately, because that science is changing so quickly, it’s easy to become confused with what’s right for you and your body!
So today I want to sit down and discuss my personal and professional opinion on stretching; why to do it, when to do it and how to do it. Let’s get into it!
Stretching: why do we need to do it?
Stretching is an act of lubricating joints while simultaneously elongating tissues and muscles that surround that joint. When in a stretch position, we talk about the ROM (range of motion) of the joint, and determine what tissues and muscles feel tense, contracted, or are resisting the movement completely. This gives us neural feedback that we can use to decipher what needs more or less attention when it comes to your activity routine.
Stretching: when to do it?
In the real world. Every body is different and requires different amounts of attention, maintenance and care. As a general rule, it is safe and recommended to incorporate some style of stretching in your warm up and cool down routines. Lately a lot of science has suggested that in the warm up period, it is best to incorporate ‘dynamic stretching’, aka active stretching. This is to incorporate some nerve flossing into the routine (nerve flossing is when the nerve is pushed and pulled within the tissues and muscles that allows it to stretch and be switched on). Dynamic stretching can consist of walking hamstring stretches, leg swings, and twisting lunges to name a few. Great for lubricating the joint, stretching the tissue and muscles, and flossing the nerves at the same time.
When it comes to the cool down routine, it’s been recently (the past 5-10 years) suggested that static stretching works best in terms of recovery and injury prevention. Static stretching is the type of stretching you’re most likely more familiar with; quad stretching, neck stretching, calf stretching etc. All of these done in a way that is still and isolated to that particular muscle group. This type of stretching helps with lymphatic drainage that is necessary to get rid of any waste product, such as lactic acid, that was formed during exercise.
Stretching: how to do it?
I like to recommend stretching in a way that feel natural to you. Of course, if you’re brand new to stretching and have absolutely no idea — here are some tips!
Think about what exercise you’re about to do or have just finished to determine what muscle groups to target when stretching.
Stretching should not be painful. If you feel a pull, sharp pain or hear any noise, you’ve gone too far! Take it slow and ease into each movement.
Researching some simple yoga poses is a great place to begin! Here is a page that I like to recommend.
There you have it! Stretching doesn’t have to be overly complicated or complex, and it can actually feel really good! Start your new stretch routine before and after exercise or activity and see the changes it makes in your overall recovery, performance and wellbeing.