While studies have shown mixed results on the effectiveness of stretching, possible benefits include:
- increased range of motion in the joints
- improved muscular coordination
- reduced level of muscle tension
- improves flexibility
- and enhanced circulation
Static vs. Dynamic stretching
Dynamic stretching consists of functional based exercises which use sport specific movements to prepare the body for activity. Generally performed before a work out, they consist of controlled exercises that improve range of motion, loosen up your muscles and increase your heart rate.
Static stretching is the slow and constant movement of a muscle to a fixed end point, and can be held for up to 30 seconds. Holding a muscle in an elongated, fixed position can hurt performance if done before a workout, so it's recommended that this type of stretching is most appropriate to perform as part of your cool down.
When is a good time to stretch?
Stretching your body should be done after your muscles are already sufficiently warmed up. Give yourself 15-20 minutes to work up a bit of sweat, then add in 5 - 10 minutes of stretching.
Evidence suggests that athletes can benefit from a regular stretching program if it executed properly and timed within a workout to reduce the risk of injury. Aside from the physical benefits, stretching can also provide a proper mindset and mental focus for the training ahead.
References from the SIRC Collection:
1. Graetzer D. Feel the heat: Get warm before taking the court. Handball. February 2012;62(1):36-37.
2. Legg J. THE ROLE OF STRETCHING IN WARMUP FOR PERFORMANCE, AND INJURY PREVENTION. Strength & Conditioning Coach. October 2007;15(3):7-10.
3. McHugh M, Cosgrave C. To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports. April 2010;20(2):169-181.
4. Small K, McNaughton L, Matthews M. A Systematic Review into the Efficacy of Static Stretching as Part of a Warm-Up for the Prevention of Exercise-Related Injury. Research In Sports Medicine. July 2008;16(3):213-231.
5. Stone M, Ramsey M, Kinser A, O'Bryant H, Ayers C, Sands W. Stretching: Acute and Chronic? The Potential Consequences. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Allen Press). December 2006;28(6):66-74.
6. The Impact of Stretching on Sports-Injury Risk and Performance. Athletic Therapy Today. November 2006;11(6):66-69.
7. Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury. Sports Medicine. September 2007;37(12):1089-1099.