by Anita Brickle (Remedial Massage Therapist)
There are many questions as to what type of stretching should be done and when during exercise.
The weight of evidence now shows that a more dynamic/moving style of warm up is best done prior to your exercise. The reason behind this is to gradually increase the heart rate and blood flow throughout our body, providing us with more flexibility and elasticity to our muscles. It also gives the brain time to adapt to the change of environment, increasing our reaction time.
Let’s break this down in simple terms – stretching is lengthening the muscle tissues in a controlled manner. If we don’t gradually warm up our bodies, our muscle can tear causing injury and pain. Think of an old rubber band, if you pull it quickly – it will break. The same affect can happen if we do not apply a good warm up pattern before exercise.
From a performance point of view, the greater range of motion we have in our muscles and joints, will likely generate a larger force and power output. This may increase your ability you run faster or jump higher. There is some evidence showing that static stretching helps to reduce soreness after activity, but so far tests have proved inconclusive. However, when we allow the body to slowly stretch post exercise it may help the body to return to its normal state.
Sometimes stretching is painful. As One professor of sports medicine at the University of Virginia, Jay Hertel, describes, “That stretched muscle is sending a message to your brain that it feels good, but also that it hurts,”. The pain signal is important because it protects us from stretching too far and literally pulling the muscle tissues apart.”
Over time, a person can increase tolerance to that pain, eventually becoming more limber and flexible.