Stretching, why?

Despite the years of research and mountains of data, there still is no definitive answer to whether stretching is worth your time and effort. Proponents argue that stretching prevents injury, diminishes delayed onset muscle soreness and improves athletic performance. Some go as far as to say that regular stretching can help speed recovery from workouts and improve blood flow to the area being stretched. Opponents will argue that stretching can actually cause injury, and does nothing to improve performance or prevent delayed onset muscle soreness. In fact there are many experts who not only believe stretching does nothing to improve performance, but that it can significantly hinder it. Each side can site numerous studies to support their claims.

Because there is so much conflicting data, should we even bother stretching? The answer is a resounding “yes”. Especially if you lack normal range of motion in your joints. Our bodies are a feat of engineering that man, in all his wisdom and brilliance, cannot replicate. For example, as we grow and develop into adults, we are provided with a certain degree of flexibility governed by our genetics. This flexibility allows us to have a normal range of movement around a joint. This range of movement is crucial to the health of our joints. Training, injuries and the natural aging process all will diminish flexibility and the range of movement we started with. Flexibility is not only lost or gained in the muscle, it’s also determined by tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue. It is this relationship between bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc., that took millions of years to perfect through evolution. Any disturbance between the structures in our joints can lead to hindered performance or serious injury.

No matter which side you take, and no matter what the reason, the data is conclusive on one point: It’s much more effective to stretch muscles that are already warmed up. A warm-up is light to moderate activity lasting 10 – 15 minutes before the actual workout begins. Warming up drives blood into the muscles and synovial fluid into the joints, thus reducing stiffness. If you warm-up first, you’ll make much more progress than if you stretch cold.

To evaluate whether you are developing a restriction around a joint, and to see a list of stretches in their proper order go HERE.


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