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Stretching: What, When & How

Common questions I get asked by clients are “I think I know what stretches to do but I’m not sure if I am doing them correctly” or “I was stretching before exercising but was told not to do them before exercising because it can reduce performance”. These sort of questions often come up as an after thought because at the end of the day we exercise for our own personal goals which are usually strength, physique or just to keep fit.

Flexibility and injury prevention aren’t always at the top of everyone list of priorities when it comes to exercising. However, flexibility and injury prevention soon come to the forefront of peoples minds during times of injury or poor performance. So lets tackle this problem before these issues occur.

Firstly, let’s tackle the issue of whether stretching pre-exercise negatively effects your performance. There is little research out there that shows that stretching can negatively effect your performance, however stretching a muscle that isn’t correctly warmed up can cause injury and then in turn affect your performance. This then highlights the different styles of stretching – static and dynamic – and their uses.

Static Stretching

This is a blanket term that includes stretches that are performed without any movement apart from that of the target muscle being stretched. This type of stretch tends to be used more post exercise due to the lack of movement and therefore going hand in hand with your cool down to help bring your heart rate down as well as helping maintain and improve your flexibility. Static stretching can however be used pre exercise but you need to make sure that the muscles are warm beforehand due to the lack of movement during the stretch.

Dynamic stretching

This is inclusive of all stretches that involve swinging or bounding motions to extend the range of movement of the target muscle. I prefer to use these stretches alongside a warm up so that it keeps the body moving and helps promote blood flow and increase your heart rate so you are ready for exercise. It is still important to start off your routine with a thorough warm up due to dynamic stretching involving relatively sudden and intense movements.

When to stretch is a stumbling block for many of the clients I see and there is no right or wrong time to stretch, other than when your muscles aren’t warmed up before hand. Stretching can be done morning, night, pre-exercise, post-exercise or just during the day when your muscles are feeling slightly stiff after a hard day at work.

Technique is a very important factor in your stretches. No matter what stretch you are trying to complete, it is always important to seek advice from health professionals like ourselves at SB Sports Massage & Rehabilitation or speak to your personal trainer or gym instructor, who will walk you through the correct technique. Stretching with an incorrect technique can cause injury or not achieve the desired effect. View the “Stretches” section on our website to watch demonstrations of some key stretches.

Finally, if you have been doing all of the above and your performance issues aren’t being resolved, this could be down to the tension through the muscles needing a more manual approach. Whether this be through massage, assisted stretching or mobilisations, all of our highly qualified therapists can offer you help to prevent any further issues.

I hope this blog has helped answer your questions and helps you on your fitness journey.

Danny @ SB Sports Massage & Rehabilitation