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Do You Really Need To Stretch?

Apr 23, 2021

Do You Really Need To Stretch?

Stretching
has long played an important role in the world of sport and fitness, with many
athletes stretching religiously before and after exercise in hopes of
preventing injuries.

Lately, this
practice has been called into question with many people wondering if stretching
really makes a difference to athletic performance. The answer, like most
things, is not black and white, as we explore a little in this article.





A brief
introduction to stretching


Stretching
is a type of movement that increases flexibility by lengthening muscle fibres
to the end of their range. Stretching before and after exercise has been
thought to reduce the risk of injury, improve athletic performance and reduce
muscle soreness after exercise.

The two most
common types of stretching are static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching
is when you lengthen your muscle and then hold that position for a period of
time.

Dynamic
stretching uses movement and momentum of the body to stretch muscles to their
end range, without holding the stretch at the end.





What does
the research say?


Some
research has suggested that static stretching before an activity can actually

reduce

power, strength and performance.
However, these reductions were shown to be minimal and not noticed at all if
the stretches were held for less than 45 seconds. It has also been found that stretching does
improve flexibility but only for a short period of time. A few minutes after
stretching, your joints move further, and with less resistance, so you may have
improved flexibility immediately after stretching.





Why stretch
at all?


One thing
that is undeniable is that stretching feels great, with many people feeling
more relaxed and reporting a rush of endorphins after a good stretching
session. It is also difficult to test the long-term effects of stretching
specific muscles showing abnormal tightness. A long-term static stretching
routine will improve your overall flexibility, and this is thought to help
prevent injuries, although the evidence is inconclusive.

If you’re an
athlete, the decision to stretch or not can be a personal one. A warm-up prior
to intense exercise that includes some form of dynamic stretching is generally
recommended for reducing injury risk, but of course is no guarantee. Strength
and balance training may have a far greater impact on reducing injuries in the
long term.

Your
physiotherapist is able to guide you on the best stretching advice for your individual
activity and they may be able to identify some areas where improving your
flexibility will help to reduce injuries and improve performance.


None of the information in this article is a replacement
for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your
individual injury.

Join The Conversation

If you’d like to have your say on this article feel free to add a comment using the form, we love to hear your thinking and open the table to discussion, and hopefully share resources, blog posts, articles and information that’s useful to you!

If you’d like to discuss anything in private instead, just get in touch using the contact details at the bottom of the page!

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