Build Better Flexibility
To Stretch or Not to Stretch?If you're looking for solid research that shows athletes who stretch have big advantages over those who don't, it is hard to come by. Most studies that have compared a group of athletes who stretch to a group that doesn't stretch find no performance gain among the stretchers, and no protection from injury, either. One study did find that those who stretch had slightly greater endurance, but not greater speed. READ MORE
Bad stretching habits can cause injury. Those who stretch in a short, fast movement, bobbing and bouncing rather than easing into a stretch, risk muscle pulls or tears. The biggest gain from stretching is that it increases your range of motion around a joint. This effect improves balance and compensates for overuse or underuse of certain muscles. LESS
It Pays to be FlexibleStretching is especially beneficial to athletes who focus on one sport or activity, because they need to balance and strengthen all of their muscle groups. The benefit comes in two steps: 1) stretching muscles that are used in a small range of motion repeatedly (think of a cyclist's quadriceps and glutes) and 2) strengthening the muscle groups that work in opposition to those muscles (a cyclist's hamstrings and hip flexors). READ MORE
According to Dr. David Musnick and Mark Pierce, in their book Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness: "The goal of stretching is to lengthen a muscle and move the corresponding joints through the full range of motion, allowing both the contractile (muscle and tendon) and the noncontractile (ligament and joint capsule) structures to lengthen.” Additionally, many athletes use the time for mental training, such as visualization and goal-setting before a workout or competition. So long as you are stretching safely, you have nothing to lose. LESS
The Best Way to StretchAfter you warm up or exercise, catch your breath and let your pulse return to it's resting rate before you stretch. Then follow these simple guidelines:
- Inhale before stretching the muscle, then exhale as you slowly and smoothly extend into the stretch.
- Hold a stretch only until you feel a slight pull, then stop. As you hold the stretch, the muscle should relax and the pulling sensation will ease.
- When the tension subsides, you can try to increase the stretch again. Stretching should never cause pain.
- Hold each stretch for 30–60 seconds, breathing evenly the entire time. Never hold your breath while stretching.
- Keep your stretching routine balanced and methodical. Stretch muscles on each side of your body for the same amount of time.