Before beginning any physical activity it is wise to stretch to avoid injury, right? That is what most of us have heard for the majority of our lives. The fact is that stretching before activity may not actually help reduce the risk of injury at all though. If stretching isn’t the answer to avoiding injuring during physically straining activities then what is?
Robert Herbert and Marcos Noronha from the University of Sydney conducted an analysis and concluded that static stretching before exercise has been not been shown to prevent either overuse or acute sports injuries. Additionally its been found that static stretching before exercise can actually have a negative impact on performance. This negative impact may be due to muscle exhaustion while holding a stretch.
How to Avoid Injuries
To avoid injury during exercise it is recommended to spend additional time warming up and less time performing static stretches. Ideally, depending on the intensity of the exercise being performed you would warm up for at east 15 minutes followed by dynamic stretching. After the exercise, while your body is warm, it is then recommended to perform static stretches. Static stretching at this time helps improve overall flexibility and allows your body to cool down and your heart rate to drop post exercise.
How Much to Stretch
Flexibility is essential for avoiding injury, but too much of a good thing can be bad. It seems that the more flexible you become the less efficient your muscles also become at generating power. The tightness of your muscles allows them to act like a spring along with your tendons to generate power. A balance is necessary to be flexible enough to avoid injury but not overly flexible where your muscles lose their “natural spring“.
While performing static stretching post exercise, a good rule of thumb is to hold each stretch for 30 seconds. 30 seconds allows your body to reap the benefits of the stretch, whereas 60 seconds does not seem to add much, if any, additional value to your stretches.
Comment below on your stretching routine. What do you do prior to exercise to avoid injury?