We’ve seen an increase in
stretching-related injuries lately which has prompted us to look into whether stretching is really worth it! Does improving flexibility really correlate with better function, as is widely thought? The short answer is: maybe. It really comes down to how you’re stretching.
Stretching for flexibility does work, but the trade off is that it will weaken the muscles immediately after. Oftentimes, people stretch to the maximum length by doing 10 or so stretches and once they feel the joints are loosened up, they begin their strength training.
Static vs. Dynamic stretching for flexibility
The American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendation is to do 2-4 reps of static stretching, followed by an active warm up, and then your work out. However, this recommendation is a general guideline – it might not work for you!
For sports like gymnastics and dance, more static stretching may be recommended. But for more dynamic sports like basketball and sprinting, a more dynamic stretch is necessary.
So what is the difference between static and dynamic stretching? A static stretch moved the muscles to the end of the range of motion hold it (think touching your toes and counting to 10). Stretching statically and holding for 15-30 seconds for 2-4 repetitions is helpful, but after 6 repetitions, over-stretching the joint, joint sprain, and weakening the strength of the muscle occurs. So slow it down and do fewer reps.
Dynamic stretching is moving muscles through their full range of motion actively without resistance (think doing high knees across the court).
Sprains and Strains
Interestingly, stretching does not necessarily prevent injuries. And there are even cases where forcing the stretch at the end range can cause an injury such as a sprain or strain.
A sprain is an injured ligament, the thing that connects two bones at a joint. A ligament injury hurts when the joint is taxed to support weight. Patients often say that it’s fine until they try to do something, then it hurts.
A strain is when you inflame or partially tear the muscle or tendon. Patients complain that it aches and is persistent but doesn’t hurt when they use it. It hurts when they stop.
Our free report on sports injuries discusses how to recover from both.
So remember, stretching for flexibility in small quantities is beneficial. But don’t force your muscles at the end of ranges because you can cause injuries if you overdo it. Flexibility is a good thing, but getting it all at once does more harm than good.
If you experience pain or an injury due to stretching, make sure to get some help. Pain is not normal! We at Actify will help you understand the real cause of your pain and what we need to do to get you living free from pain. To learn more about our approach and how we can help you, check out our website https://www.actifypt.com/