Stretching- and Why it Isn’t A Waste of Time

So… stretching ehh. It seems to have become almost a joke among fitness circles with many, jokingly or not, laughing at the mere thought of it. But stretching, it may only take ten minutes, could save you an injury.

Often at the gym at school and even some commercial gyms I have used, I see people who just jump into an exercise. No stretching, no nothing just slap on the first weight and take it from there. I don’t know if people don’ do it because they haven’t got time or if they don’t see the point in it or whether they don’t know how to do it, but whatever the reason you have I hope this post will be an insight into a world of fitness you are missing out on.

A common stretching strategy is to do it before you exercise. What this will do is to prepare the muscles you will use during the exercise giving a larger range of motion on that muscle and limiting your chances of injuries. This is because that stretching begins to pump blood into the muscle being stretched, meaning that when you use that muscle in your exercises it will be less of a shock to your muscles and so significant tearing or “pulling” of the muscle will be avoided.

Another common stretching habit is to do it after your workout in the hope that it will lessen the pain of your aching muscles. I don’t really know why people do this but to those who are confused as to why it doesn’t help and why it, in this circumstance, is a waste of time. Muscle soreness normally kicks in about 12-24 hours after the exercise- it is the product of damaged muscle fibres meaning that whenever you use the muscle in question you can’t use it as well. Stretching won’t be of any use because it won’t correct the damaged fibres, only correct nutrition and rest can do that.

But after all this is there a right way to stretch? Well apparently yes, if you use single stretches then you could be hurting that athletic performance you think you are gaining. Many of the studies that tested this used something that could be measured- like jumping. Those that stretched before the jump managed less than those who didn’t. So the answer is to “dynamically stretch”, this is normally an exaggerated version of the range of motion such as “bum flicks” or “high knees”.

Stretching can also have the effect of strengthening a muscle. Because stretching, much like weight lifting, damages a muscle therefore hypertrophy is caused and the muscle will grow back stronger.

I hope this has been a little insight into stretching and what it can do for you. And maybe I have persuaded you to even take up stretching and reap the rewards.

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