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The Importance of Stretching for Injury Prevention and Performance

injury-prevention

Do you ever find yourself at the end of your training session and think to yourself, damn, I should probably stretch but… nah.

Perhaps your body often feels tight and stiff, but you ain’t no yogi, you want to be jacked, strong and ripped, you wouldn’t be seen dead in the stretching zone.

But if you’ve ever experienced a serious injury, you'll remember that dealing with that can be a long and frustrating process.

If you want to minimise the chance of that happening as much as you can, this is your reminder. Today we’re going to highlight the benefits of stretching for injury prevention, and discover what kind of practice you might want to include in your routine.

So why is it important?

As we train, age and move through life, our muscle and connective tissues shorten and tighten. They tighten up where a muscle has been dominant or overused, and as a result, when we go to use those muscles again they can feel tight or weak.

This makes you prone to injuries, inflammation and pain.

For example, sitting down and using a laptop a lot shortens the hamstrings and chest muscles, as well creating a forward rounded posture. If you then do an activity without properly warming up, these muscles are more prone to being overstretched, which can lead to muscle or joint injuries.

Stretching lengthens these tissues and allows some of the tension to be transferred to the opposing muscles, improving posture and reducing the risk of injury(1).

Think about it, if you have forward rounded shoulders, and stretch your chest and shoulders, your back muscles will be able to properly pull your shoulders back into a better position.

But what about performance? As it happens, regular stretching keeps muscles strong, flexible and supple.

One study on wrestlers demonstrated that a mobility routine produced longer-term improvements sustained power, strength, muscular endurance, anaerobic capacity, and agility performance enhancements(2).

But where should you start? With so many muscles in the body, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin.

Given we live a much more sedentary lifestyle than our ancestors, the lower body is a good place to start. Tight hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps are extremely common.

Another spot, especially for men, is a tight chest and shoulders, specifically at the front of the body. Beach muscles anyone? Stretching these muscles can work wonders for your posture.

How much, how often? The American College of Sports Medicine concluded the following:

Healthy adults should do flexibility exercises (stretches, yoga, or tai chi) for all major muscle-tendon groups—neck, shoulders, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles—at least two to three times a week(3).

For optimal results, you should spend a total of 60 seconds on each stretching exercise. So, if you can hold a particular stretch for 15 seconds, repeating it three more times would be ideal. If you can hold the stretch for 20 seconds, two more repetitions would do the trick(3).

This is because it takes that amount of time for the tissues to adapt to the stretch stimuli.

So what are you waiting for? Get stretching!

References

  • Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 March 2022].
  • Herman, S. and Smith, D., 2008. Four-Week Dynamic Stretching Warm-up Intervention Elicits Longer-Term Performance Benefits. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(4), pp.1286-1297.

Harvard Health. 2022. The ideal stretching routine - Harvard Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 March 2022]

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