Stretching, by definition, is to be made or be capable of being made longer or wide without tearing or breaking. It has hypothesized that stretching can :
- increase flexibility,
- increase your range of motion,
- improve performance in physical activities,
- increase blood flow to muscles,
- aid with stress relief
- ………and much more.
Stretching is something we’ve all heard about and something that likely we’ve all been told to do, whether it be for sport, because we’re sore or simply because you can’t touch your toes like you used to be able to. Across my time studying I heard of a great analogy that I’d like to share with you today;
“Stretching is like washing dirty dishes. It’s easiest and best to do them straight after you’ve used them.”
Leaving them overnight makes it harder to do, which then takes longer to get the result you desire. Now we can apply this to physical activity, its best to stretch those hamstrings and calves now that they’re warm and active, waiting until next morning when you’re stiff and tired simply won’t produce the same results for recovery or range.
Stretching is a commonly known practice but isn’t commonly executed. Often not due to poor knowledge but because we just be bothered or ‘can’t find the time’ to put the effort in. So going back to the analogy, just imagine your mum or dad pestering you to do those dishes, and you can’t play with your friends until they’ve been done. Squeeze those stretches into every day activities, such as taking a shower, waiting for the kettle to boil or even at your work desk.
If you’re like me you can envisage your sporting coach forcing you to stretch, stretch and stretch again before going to kick the first footy for the night, like with many practices over the years with the evolution in sport science we now know the conventional ‘static stretching’ is no longer useful and potentially detrimental to performance and muscle health. A study in the American College of Sports Medicine found that static stretching weakened the muscle on a neurological level, leaving the muscle more prone to tear and decreased performance.
So what can you do to warm up?
Don’t get me wrong stretching and warming up is vital in sport and injury prevention. Many players, coaches and teams need to alter their methods to the ‘dynamic variation’ of stretching. For example the old fashioned bend down and touch your toes was a classic hamstring stretch before training, but this rapid change in length (and often on a cold wintery night) can put extra strain on our hamstrings before playing. Instead opt for ‘leg swings’ you’ll notice elite sportsman leaning on each other, a fence or a post, taking their leg through a simple kicking/swinging motion gradually increasing through further range – this is a great dynamic stretch that promotes blood flow and active lengthening of the muscle. Other exercises to think about would be simple lunges or squats, crab walks and ‘gate openers’.
For any advice on stretching or warm ups, no matter how specific or broad, come in and see one of our dedicated Osteopaths today!