Stretching is an important part of participating in any sport and can enable consistent training. Stretching comes with many benefits:
- improving range of movement
- improving circulation
- decrease muscle stiffness and DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness)
- help with the recovery process
- reduce injury risk and improvements in posture
Stretching can be undertaken in a number of different forms and can be further aided by the time when someone chooses to engage in a certain form of stretching. The different types of stretching include the following:
Dynamic stretching is mainly useful as a warm-up for activity. This is a form of stretching that uses movement, enabling an increase in heart rate as well as improving range of movement. Dynamic stretching reduces the risk of over stretching, which static stretching may lead to.
Static stretching tends to be used at the end of exercise. Static stretching uses the body’s own force to stretch muscles while not moving. At the end of exercise the muscles are warm, therefore gaining the most benefit from the stretch without risking injury. If static stretching is done when the muscles are cold, this may cause microtrauma to the muscles, leading to potential injury.
Passive stretching is when another person helps with the stretch, this could be by holding a leg or ankle, enabling full relaxation of the muscle throughout the stretch. However, this comes with the same injury risks as static stretching, plus the person helping may not know where the limit of the muscle is, leading to over stretching. This form of stretching is most appropriate with someone who is qualified in the relevant fields.
Even though all these forms of stretching are good and can help with improving performance, over stretching can also be dangerous and result in injury. Static and passive stretching are most vulnerable to this. Over stretching is when the muscle is lengthened beyond its natural limit. This can happen in two ways: stretching too often or stretching beyond natural levels during stretching. There needs to be a careful balance on the amount of stretching taking place. The best way to avoid this is to only stretch warm muscles and stop stretching if a muscle begins to hurt.
One way that can increase range of movement and flexibility, while avoiding over stretching, is foam rolling as mentioned in the previous blog post.