Stretching Principles and Guidelines

Stretching
Stretching. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Flexibility is often a goal in and of itself. Being able to take a joint through its full range of motion gives us more freedom of movement. Relaxing tight muscles feels good and balances the body. Fitness activities such as yoga and stretching concentrate on flexibility.

Surprising Research on Stretching

What coaches have taught for decades is now being questioned. Research is finding a place for stretching in improving range of motion, but has not been proven to prevent injuries or to decrease muscle soreness when done before or after exercise.

Stretching - What the Research Shows

Static Stretching

Static stretching is slowly elongating the muscle through its full range of motion, then holding it at a position where it is at full extension (but without pain). The stretch is held for 15 to 30 seconds.

How often should you stretch? Research showed that daily stretching, once per muscle group for 30 seconds, can result in an increase in range of motion.

Always Warm-Up Before Stretching

It is recommended that you warm up with an activity that exercises the muscles to be stretched for 5 to 10 minutes before stretching. Walking at an easy pace is a proper warm-up. If you plan to walk at a very fast pace and want to stretch before your speed workout, warm up first at an easy pace, then stretch.

Stretching After Exercise

Stretching after exercise can help to relax and balance tension on muscles that have just been exercised. Traditionally this was done after a cool-down period.
Or, you may wish to do the stretching as its own activity separate from your cardio or strength exercise workouts.

Stretching Routine for Walkers

Source: Thacker, Stephen B. et al. "The Impact of Stretching on Sports Injury Risk: A Systematic Review of the Literature." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

36(3):371-378, March 2004.

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