The general consensus among most professionals is that stretching is good for prevention of injuries, and will help with a person’s performance. For me, I typically prescribe stretching to my clients as a form of self-care to extend the benefits of a massage treatment.
Although the benefits are obvious, most people are not stretching as much as they should be. Studies have shown that muscle that is stretched 30seconds per day over the course of a month, have actually resulted in muscle hypertrophy, or an increase in its size.
What does this mean? It means there is a corresponding increase in the contraction force and contraction speed of that muscle. But are all stretches the same? No. All stretching is not one and the same and it is important to know what you are doing in order to ensure you avoid injury or over-stretching. Here are a few important parameters to keep in mind:
1) Make it a routine – stretching once or twice a week “when you have time” isn’t going to cut it! It needs to be consistent and a part of your regular training program in order to see the benefits.
2) 30 seconds is key – studies have shown that at 30 seconds is the optimal length of time to hold a stretch. Any less will result in a smaller increase to your ROM, and on the flip side, any longer will not elicit any greater improvements in ROM.
3) One time is enough – studies suggest that there are no advantages to stretching 3x per day as apposed to 1x per day, if done on a regular (daily) basis. So don’t worry about stretching 10 times on a given day. Do it once, do it right, and do it daily.
4) Don’t stretch prior to your activity – stretching will strain the muscle fibers involved and actually weaken them if done prior to your activity. Plan to stretch after your workout or activity to ensure your best performance.
5) Warm your body up with functional movement – well if you can’t stretch how do you prep before a workout? The key to “warming up” is to increase the temperature of your muscles and tissue to a sufficient level without causing fatigue. Try walking, light jogging, swinging your limbs, skipping, or stairs to increase your body temperature. 5minutes should be adequate in most cases.
Colin Baird is the owner and principal RMT at Local Fix Clinic Toronto.