There are many schools of thought when it comes to stretching, some experts believe that if you’re aiming to reduce muscle soreness or injury, stretching has little impact on this, while others believe it is important, especially done over a period of time to help with flexibility. A massage therapist once told me that three times a day he stops what he’s doing and stretches his whole body, I know I’m not doing that so it’s safe to assume many of you out there aren’t either.
Perhaps it does just come down to doing whatever makes you happy and compliments your exercise goals. But what I do know is stretching works for me, and muscles, like other tissues in our body, need to be well circulated and healthy. Exercise, and other factors such as sitting around at work in the same posture all day can cause your muscles to shorten. But by regularly stretching the muscles you can counteract that shortening. Stretching promotes flexibility, allowing you to move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion.
Stretching alone won’t build lean muscles or give you a six pack but aerobic exercise and strength training need muscles that are in balance and working smoothly. Stretching before exercise may help decrease injuries to your muscles, ligaments and tendons but always make sure before you stretch that you are properly warmed up. I know I like to do at least a 10 minute warm up before attempting any stretches and always begin with a light stretch and finish my workout with a deeper stretch.
Make sure you stretch your entire body, or at least the major muscle groups, especially those your activity involves at least twice a week, I’d recommend doing it every time you exercise to get into good habits. Stretch each muscle slowly and gently and remember to breathe, exhaling as you move into the stretch, remember also to hold a stretch position for at least 15 seconds.
But please remember stretching the wrong way can harm muscles by creating small tears so always back off if you experience pain.