Stretching should be a regular part of an athletes training program, the benefits of stretching throughout training can optimise an individual’s performance ability. There are different types of stretching and each has a different purpose and different benefits. When the right type of stretching is done at the right time, the positive effects can be infinite.
Stretching is an important part of an
individual’s routine; it keeps the body’s range of motion free and fluid while
giving the individual increased flexibility and can help decrease the risk of
injury and sore muscles.
Different types of Stretching
There are different types of
stretching; each have various benefits for different times of
Static Stretching – A stretch is held for up to 30 seconds without
changing positions. Best performed during and after workouts.
Dynamics Stretching – A stretch that requires the individual to move
continuously throughout the stretch and is repeated fluidly. Best done before
and during workouts.
Facilitation (PNF) or Passive Stretching
– Often done with a partner or with a force while stretching so that as the
body relaxes, gravity/the equipment can push the stretch further. Bets done
after a workout.
Active Stretching – Involves contracting the opposing muscle to the
area that is relaxing into the stretch. Best done before, during and after a
Benefits of Stretching
The benefits of stretching are
dependant of when a stretch session is performed.
Benefits of stretching before
Prior to exercising warming up and
stretching an individual’s muscles can enable a greater range of motion and
several other benefits.
- Aids in preventing
injury – lengthening the muscles can reduce
the risk of injuring muscle fibres and other tissues. Increasing the range of
motion to muscles and joints enable the individual to perform better and
- Increase blood flow
throughout the body – lack of blood flow can decrease
performance, stretching can encourage increased blood flow to muscles which
allows oxygen and nutrients to flow through the bloodstream which can increase
- Reduce fatigue – after stretching, an individual will feel more
able to continue exercising for longer as stretching.
- Increase energy and
motivation – when muscles are not used or
lengthened, blood can accumulate which makes them more prone to injury.
Stretching can increase circulation which pushes oxygen around the body and
allows for more energy. Blood and oxygen also flow to the brain which increases
performance – fresh oxygen pumping around the
body, reduced risk of injury, and boosted energy will collectively increase an
Benefits of stretching during
Research has shown that frequent
‘stretch breaks’ throughout exercise can benefit an individual immensely. After
working on a specific area of the body, stretching that body part can allow it
to begin to recover ready for the next session.
coordination – stretching when a muscle group is
fatigued can re-establish pathways from the mind to the muscle group which
allows for increased coordinated movements and can aid in developing safe
- Energy boost – a delivery of fresh oxygen and nutrients will be
delivered to the muscle groups when stretched which allows the body and muscles
to stay energised.
- Body awareness – stretching mid-workout can prevent injury and can
give an individual a sense of fatigue levels and energy needs. This is a way to
determine whether a workout is too hard or too easy. Stopping to stretch can
provide time to focus on what the body is saying throughout the workout.
- Reduce lactic acid
build up – lactic acid build up leads to pain
and fatigue. Stretching aids to eliminate and disperse lactic acid from
muscles. Lactic acid can decrease performance, while stretching relaxes muscles
which helps to dissolve accumulated lactic acid.
- Deepen body
movement – lengthening the muscles and
reducing tension in connective and soft tissues will allow for greater range of
Benefits of stretching after
Studies have been conducted that
conclude that stretching post-exercise is a particularly important step in a
training routine. Exercising makes muscles flex and contract repeatedly,
stretching lengthens muscles allowing them to relax, resulting in the ability
for muscles to engage better every workout.
- Muscle repair – stretching enables improved blood circulation,
allowing muscles to relax and receive important nutrients and oxygen needed to
flexibility – flexibility can reduce muscular
tension and pain. Stretching, especially static stretches, increases
flexibility and enable the muscles and surrounding tissues to lengthen,
therefore, increase range of motion.
- Protect joints – joints within then body are surrounded by
connective tissues and have muscle attachments. Stretching allows the body to
move through its full range of motion around joints, therefore, reducing
tension, tightness and improve mobility by reducing the pressure around joints.
- Decrease risk of
cramping – stretching can aid in eliminating
lactic acid build up from muscles by allowing increased blood flow and
nutrients through the blood stream which aids in removal of harmful waste from
muscles. Reducing the lactic acid build up can speed up recovery.
- Cool Down – increasing circulation can lower an individual’s
heart rate and gradually returns the heart rate to resting. Bringing your body
gradually back to balance through stretching allows a sense of calmness and
relaxation after a workout.
Individuals that incorporate stretching daily experience many
benefits relating to performance. When stretching is utilised on a regular
basis, it improves overall health and assists in recovery which has a direct
effect on an individuals ability to excel in their chosen sporting performance.