Everything you need to know about stretching

It has been ingrained in many people that you need to stretch to reduce the incidence of injury, reduce the lactic acid build up, or to help with recovery after activity. I know, I believed this once upon a time!

It might be a shock when I say you don’t need to stretch for these reasons as they have now been disproven – they are now myths! Although, static stretching can be helpful in other situations.


What are the different types of stretching?
The most utilised types of stretching are static and dynamic stretching, let’s explain what they are;

          Static Stretches are those where you stretch a muscle by bending a joint as far as it will go and hold for a short period, for example stretching the muscle on the front of your thigh by bending your knee to your buttock and holding for 30 seconds.

          Dynamic stretches are those where your joint is bent through range by actively using a muscle, for example a swimmer rotating their body around before going for a dive in the Olympics.

Do static stretches reduce incidence of injury?
The short answer is NO. It was once believed to be beneficial, however research in the area has since proven that static stretching is not helpful for reducing injury. Plus static stretches can reduce the force production from a muscle in game play or in the gym.

The good news is that research on injury prevention has shown that strengthening exercises are proven to reduce injury risk! The research shows us that instead of focusing your time on stretching we should be aiming at having a period of strengthening exercises leading up to a planned sporting season. Particular exercises like the Nordic for hamstring strengthening have been proven to reduce incidence of injury by up to 50%. This coincides with the popularity of the FIFA 11 + program used in the European football leagues.

When is static stretching beneficial?
Static stretching (with the definition below) is helpful for increasing the mobility of a joint. A good example is stretching after an ACL reconstruction to achieve straight and bent knee positions or after shoulder surgery to increase movement overhead.

How to stretch muscles for best outcomes?
Dynamic stretches, compared to static stretches are the best type of stretch for increased performance and muscle force production (strength).

You may have noticed on the football field before a professional match that players are stretching through range and swinging their limbs around. This is an example of dynamic stretching in action.

Specific dynamic stretches that are related to the usual occupational activities, repetitive activities or sporting activities that you perform are the types of dynamic stretches that are likely to help you the most.

Written by:
Ryan Michell
Physiotherapist
Proactive Health & Movement


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