For decades it has been normal to stretch carefully before exercising. But there is now an increasing call from scientists and sports experts to stop this practise, particularly in regards to static stretching before you play sport or undergo demanding exercises.
Static stretching and exercise has been almost ruled out by some experts who claim that stretching before exercise makes your body think it is at risk of being overstretched. As a result the muscles contract, making you more likely to pick up injuries.
Warming up is very much still an essential part of your preparation for exercise or sports. Instead of simply static stretching and exercise, sports players should warm up with light drills and jogs, before moving into what are known as dynamic stretches.
Dynamic strecthing use more than one muscle group and are often performed as part of a slow, controlled movement. Stretching and exercise in this way encourages blood flow to the muscles as the heart rate increases and the muscles become warmer. Stretching and exercise is still vital to prevent injuries when playing sport or working out.
So is there no place for static stretching? Experts do not deny that stretching in this way improves flexibility, although it should be done after exercise or at a time when you are not planning to exercise at all. This way, muscles become more supple and next time you exercise are able to stretch further than before.
In fact, static stretching after exercise is certainly encouraged, especially if incorporated with dynamic stretches, like lunges for example. It keeps muscles flexible and can go some way to prevent muscle tightness the day after an intense workout.
This is a result of the muscle fibres realigning, allowing for faster recovery. If a muscle takes too long to recover an entire workout can be made pointless, particularly if your aim is to build muscle and strength. Stretching also reduces the amount of lactic acid that builds up during and after exercise, thus reducing the likelihood of muscles cramping up and being sore the day after your workout.
In addition, it is recommended that you stretch between 3 and 4 times a week to maintain or even increase flexibility and range of motion. Be sure to warm up before you do so but stretching for 5 to 10 minutes could keep you limber for longer.
It is vital to stretch before exercise but be sure to warm up before you dive straight into static stretches. Light jogging and drills will get blood flowing into your muscles and prevent them seizing up when you do stretch. Stretching after exercise is vitally important and will combat stiffness the day after your sport or workout and can make strength building exercises far more effective.