Research has shown that stretching and warm-ups before activity results in 64% fewer muscle strains than those that did not incorporate a pre-workout routine. One research study showed a 66% decrease in injuries for militaries trainees that stretched before and after training versus those that did not stretch. Another study found that pre-workout stretching caused a 5% decrease in strength and a 2% decrease in power. There continues to be controversy over when is best to stretch and which stretches are most beneficial. However, we know stretching provides benefits and reduces risk of injury.
Stretching makes muscles more elastic, this allows better functional range of motion, more force or strength, and increased velocity or speed. When you stretch regularly, your flexibility improves and there is decreased resistance to stretch. It is ideal to have a stretching and warm-up routine before workouts, competitions, or performances and a stretching routine after. This is most important for those involved in sports related to muscle strains like soccer, football, gymnastics, martial arts, dance, wrestling or hurdling. Strains occur with movements involving extensive range of motion and large forces. If your athletic activity requires power or explosive movements then you would benefit from active, dynamic warm-ups instead of static stretching. Overall, stretching provides better performance, increased strength, and fewer injuries. However, warm-up activities and stretches should be designed for each particular athlete and their sport.
- Running in place
- Jumping jacks
- Jump rope
- Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds. Stretching for longer durations has more prolonged effects.
- Avoid ballistic movements or bouncing