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Stretching? Is it important?

It is common for runners to concentrate training on endurance and strength whilst training, without the realisation of the importance of stretching muscles pre and post exercise. However, flexibility within muscles can have many positive effects including:

  • Muscles being less prone to injury
  • Quicker recovery time
  • Increase in gains of strength/endurance
  • Increase in range of movement

Stretching should always be done pre exercise after a 10 minute warm up, for example jogging. It is important that muscles are never stretched ‘cold,’ as this is a recipe for injury. Studies suggest that doing a mixture of both dynamic and static stretching has been proven to prepare muscles, bones and joints for exercise and decrease risk of injury.

Static vs Dynamic Stretches?

Static stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint or a muscle that is minimally challenging. The focus is on relaxing the body part being stretched and letting it go further on its own. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue; conversely, done prior to activity, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.

Dynamic stretches are designed to take a joint or a muscle through a challenging and repetitive motion, moving a body part further with each repetition. Dynamic stretches focuses on many different muscle groups at one time. Reducing hip stiffness prior to starting a run or ride will reduce the risk of the dreaded overuse injury. If these are performed correctly, you should still feel a nice stretch but you should also feel your heart rate gently start to rise as the blood flow is beginning to increase to all parts of the body.

But which is better?

From the research dynamic stretches are better to increase blood flow, increase the range of motion, increase your awareness of your joint position, and improve your athletic performance. It has become a necessary part of warm up, which is why you see footballers on the side of the pitch, swinging their legs around before a game.

Ultimately, static or dynamic stretching is the choice coaches make when it comes to team players. Supported research and athletes’ personal experiences suggest that dynamic stretching should be done before exercise, with static stretching ending the workout to help you cool down. When you are deciding for yourself, it may be a case of what you feel more comfortable after and how long after stretching you are going to exercise. Stretching is a major part of your warm up and cool down and should not be underestimated, it may stop those pesky injuries from reoccuring and keep you on the pitch.

Contact us for more information or to book an appointment, our experienced therapist’s are able to tailor warm up’s to your specific needs.

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