Stretching: When and How to Effectively Stretch

Written by | Posted under Injury Care | 7 years ago

There are many conflicting opinions out there regarding stretching. Is it good? Is it bad? When should you stretch? How should you stretch? Does stretching prevent injuries? Will stretching improve your performance? This article will answer these questions and more.

Stretching can be good or bad, depending on when you stretch.

Stretching before physical activity has been shown to decrease muscular performance by as much as 28%, with this effect lasting as long as one hour following the cessation of stretching. This decline in muscular performance is attributed to neuromuscular inhibition and decreased muscular contractile force, both of which can actually decrease joint stability and increase your risk of injury during athletic performance. In lieu of stretching, warm-ups should be active and continuous. These “active warm-ups” should be sport-specific, and target all muscle groups and ranges of motion needed for the impending physical demands.


Girl Stretching

Photo © Jason Patel

The long-term effects of stretching are more beneficial than the short-term effects. Stretching after physical activity can help increase or maintain flexibility, which may decrease injury risk and increase athletic performance. So keep doing your Yoga, just not as a warm-up.

Stretching Tips:

-Stretching should NOT be performed before athletic performance or vigorous athletic activity.

-Stretches should be performed using a static hold, or PNF techniques (contract-relax, hold-relax). Stretching should be performed slowly and held at the perceived point of tightness.

-For improved flexibility, each major muscle group should be stretched 4-5x 20-30 seconds.

-For the best long-term effects, stretching should be performed daily, or at least 3x/week.

The information in this article was adapted from an article by Duane Knudson in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, titled, “Program Stretching After Vigorous Physical Training” (Volume 32 – Number 6 – December 2010).


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