Yonatan Kaplan headshot.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Everyone knows that you are supposed to stretch before you work
Stretching is thought to reduce the likelihood of injuries and many
assume that stretching is a necessary component of a workout.
always told that they mustn’t forget to stretch, lest they suffer from muscle
strain and a great deal of pain, before engaging in physical
The question is, is stretching really helping our bodies or is
this just a myth that desperately needs revision? Many assume that stretching
leads to a reduction of injuries, but before we can answer this question, we
need to discuss what stretching is.
A common mistake people make is
assuming that stretching is a type of warming up or even that stretching itself
is warming up! Stretching and warming up are two different physical activities,
with different purposes, goals and outcomes.
As mentioned in the previous
article on warming up, its purpose is to increase your body and muscle
temperature by slowing increasing your heart rate and breathing
This increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles,
preparing them for hard, physical work.
This is something that should be
done before stretching. Warming up will in fact increase the range of motion
possible while stretching.
Stretching is a physical activity where a
muscle is lengthened in order to increase its flexibility.
This leads to
greater control of one’s muscles, which allows for a greater range of
Stretching and warming up are therefore two different physical
activities, with two different purposes and two different goals.
are several forms of stretching.
Ballistic stretching This involves
repeating certain bouncing movements over and over again to force the muscle
beyond its normal range of motion.
An example of this would be bouncing
down and then trying to touch your toes.
Static stretching This involves
stretching the muscle and holding it in place for a certain period of
An example of this would be extending out your arms and holding
them in position.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)
stretching This alternates between muscle contracting and muscle
An example would be stretching your leg and then contracting
it for a few seconds.
As with any other type of exercise, double-check
with your doctor, physiotherapist, or personal trainer before attempting any of
The examples are given only so that you will have some
background on the issue.
There is research that supports the claim that
stretching is effective at reducing injuries. It is maintained that stretching
prevents injuries because it increases the flexibility of muscles, which makes
muscle contractions smoother.
Others found that stretching was also
effective when it was combined with a warm-up (obviously, warming up before
stretching and not vice versa).
It was also noted that stretching was
found to reduce the number of groin or buttock problems in women.
scientist recommended that stretching is most effective when done within 15
minutes before engaging in physical activity.
Another study found that
there is support that stretching helps to lower the risk of musculotendinous
Next week, I will continue with part two.The above
information is supplied by Yonatan Kaplan PT PhD (Candidate), Director,
Jerusalem Sports Medicine Institute, Lerner Sports Center, Hebrew University.
For further details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call Yonatan at 054-463-9463
or visit www.jsportmed.com