The Problem with Stretching: How and When You Should be Stretching
There is plenty of confusion on the web about whether stretching is good or bad. What type of stretch is best? When you should stretch? In my experience I have seen stretching benefit and hurt individuals depending on when and why they were stretching. In this blog, I’m going to try and answer the above questions on stretching based off my research with medical and personal training clients.
Is Stretching Good?
Stretching is very useful when used for the right reasons. If you are constantly stretching because of low back pain or tight hamstrings you might be covering up and prolonging a more serious issue. You must ask yourself, why do these muscles keep tightening?
There may be several reasons such as weakness in the supporting muscles or perhaps an inability of muscle contraction or an old injury. Whatever the case may be, muscles tighten to protect the joints. However, if you never address the root of the problem, you may only address a symptom. Tight muscles are a symptom which is why soon after stretching the muscle returns to its original state.
What Type of Stretch is Best?
Any stretch that does not involve passively forced movements is the best type of stretch because it allows your muscles to relax and are not as likely to cause an injury. Ballistic stretching, static stretching and passive stretching all involve forcing your body into increased ranges of motion. The problem with this type of stretching is it opens a new range of motion that you have no control over.
Exercising in ranges of motion that you do not have strength and stability in will only lead to injury and muscle imbalances that contribute to pain. The stretches that I encourage my personal training clients to practice are:
These 3 types of stretching forms are great for warm-ups and better prepare you for the load of exercise on the body.
Related > More Flexibility Does Not Mean Stability
When Should I Stretch?
Before exercise, dynamic and active stretching would be ideal. Not only will you increase blood flow, but you will have a more accurate understanding of what your body feels like before exercise.
Pro Tip: Try mimicking movements you think you will do during the workout.
After exercise isometric stretching is recommended as the muscles are more elastic. However, remember that the muscle does not move in an isometric stretch. You are simply contracting the muscle in to a stationary object or surface.
Workout with Muscle Activation Techniques
Increasing a muscles ability to contract will not only increase flexibility but increase strength and stability throughout the motion. Not being able to touch your toes may be more about an inability to move in to flexion than being limited by tight hamstrings. However, always keep in mind to listen to your body, pain and tightness are warning signs. Don’t push your body past your comfortable range of motion! If you are unsure about the techniques that you are using, it is always recommended to see a muscle activation technique specialist.
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