Are you too cool to stretch? I used to be– or I thought I was. And then I strained a few muscles, had some back issues while surfing, and had sore legs and tight hips from running. Now I can’t seem to stretch enough. Oh, and I am 30. That hurts to type.
Why Should You Stretch?
Stretching can balance the length and tension of muscles around a joint, decreasing the likelihood of overactive muscles and joint stress. However, it is important to identify the muscles that are actually overactive (no guessing). Once you do that, then you can develop a plan for lengthening them and strengthening their counterparts.
If you do not balance the muscles around your joints, you will develop faulty movement patterns over time. Essentially, you will succumb to the following series of events:
Muscle Imbalances–> Poor Posture–> Improper Movements–> Injury
(Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008)
When & How to Stretch
- Use a posture assessment to determine which muscles to target
- Do SMFR (Self Myofascial Release, AKA Foam Rolling) first!
- Corrective, Active, or Functional stretching
- A trainer is especially beneficial at this stage
You should stretch before and after each work out. However, one caveat is necessary. There is some scientific research suggesting that acute static stretching before a performance can slightly decrease power and/or strength (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). Conversely, long-term (chronic) stretching has been associated with increased strength and power.
So start implementing stretching now to increase your long-term power, strength, range of motion and neuromuscular efficiency, and to decrease joint stress.
Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.