For some reason, there’s an ongoing debate about whether to stretch or not before exercise. With so many opinions, it must seem hard to know what is right for you.
But in over 20 years’ practice in physiotherapy, my opinion has never wavered – stretching was, is, and will always be, important for your general bodily maintenance, and especially before exercise and sports.
At Elite Akademy, we have encountered many myths around stretching – here are some doozies you may have heard:
Myth: Stretching alone can prevent injury
If only it was that simple. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee stretching can prevent injury. There are too many variables at play: muscles can be weak, joints can be stiff or too loose, nerves can be tight, ligaments can be loose. Any of these alone, or together, can cause injury.
Stretching works wonders for tight muscles but there are plenty of other issues which can go wrong, and stretching won’t necessarily prevent problems in your joints, nerves or ligaments.
If you are stretching yet repeatedly becoming injured, you may need a professional assessment to find exactly where you are breaking down.
Myth: If you’re inflexible then stretching is important
Inflexibility can be caused by many issues, not just tight muscles. Even stress and incorrect diet can cause inflexibility. Stretching is not the only solution, though it is likely to be useful for you. But if you have ongoing issues with flexibility then you may need a professional assessment to evaluate your muscles, joints, nerves and ligaments.
Myth: If you’re already flexible, you’re okay!
Unfortunately, this is not only untrue, but believing this may contribute to future injuries.
If you’re flexible, you still need to prepare your muscles for activity. I would still recommend starting with static stretches (just a basic stretch for about 30 seconds at a time), and then work up to dynamic stretches (more functional stretches where your joints and muscles go through full movements).
Myth: If you don’t stretch your muscles will shorten
Incorrect. Muscles will only shorten if kept in a shortened (closed) position. For example, always having your arm in a bent position will shorten your biceps muscle. But you could go all your life using your arm, without stretching your biceps, and not worry about it shortening.
What are some keys to a good stretching routine?
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