There are many different opinions out there when it comes to the importance of stretching your muscles. For some, it’s an essential part of a pre-workout routine that should never be skipped. Others see it as a waste of time that’s not beneficial to their exercise. So which is it?
The truth is, everybody is a little bit different, so some people may experience the benefits of stretching more than others. But while stretching won’t necessarily make you stronger, there is evidence that stretching before a workout can help just about anyone with injury prevention and flexibility. It also helps get your blood flowing and is good for mentally preparing for physical activity.
What kinds of stretches should I be doing?
How you stretch should depend on what activities you’re doing and the goal of the stretch. If you’re an athlete warming up for a game, it makes sense to focus on stretching the muscles you’ll be using the most.
For example, if you’re a baseball player, you should do stretches that target your shoulders, rotator cuff, torso and hips. This is because the muscles in these areas are used most often for throwing and hitting a baseball. But while it’s good to focus on certain areas — especially if you’re an athlete — you still need to stretch your whole body because all your muscles, tissue and joints rely on one another to function properly.
If you’re just someone who’s trying to stay physically fit, a great place to start is with basic leg stretches. Hamstring, calf and quadricep stretches are good because these are large muscles that can easily become tight, and they’re muscles we use every day. Stretching them can help your whole body feel better — even if you aren’t gearing up for a big game.
What’s the difference between dynamic and static stretching?
Dynamic stretching is active, kinetic stretching that involves constant movement. These stretches tend to be better for athletes and are best avoided by those just getting into fitness. Examples of dynamic stretching include lunges, high knees, leg swings and shoulder circles. These stretches are good for increasing joint flexibility and preparing muscles for intense physical activity.
Static stretches involve holding a stretch for a certain period of time to allow muscles to flex. To perform them, you should stretch to the point where it becomes challenging but not uncomfortable. These longer, sustained stretches should typically be held for about 45 to 60 seconds. Bending over and trying to touch your toes is a perfect example of a static stretch.
Can stretching help with recovering from an injury?
Yes, and in fact, it’s one of the best things you can do. The key is choosing the right stretches based on your injury, and also focusing on areas that surround the injured muscle. By strengthening a group of muscles that work together, you can help a specific area recover faster.
If you have a lingering or serious muscle or joint injury, it’s often a good idea to work with a physical therapist. They can help you figure out the right stretches to recover and can also work with you to suggest other treatment options if necessary.
While it might not be your favorite part of your workout, stretching is an important activity that just about anyone can benefit from. It’s also a great thing to do to loosen up and relieve stress — and the best part is you can easily do it just about anywhere in your own home. And when you’re consistent, you’ll see your flexibility continue to improve over time.
If you’re dealing with a persistent sports injury, our team at Hendricks Regional Health is here for you. Contact us today to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists.