When, and when not, to do this.

If you “stretch out” first, you’ll lessen your chance of injury, right? Unfortunately this is not totally true, even though we’ve been told this time and time again. There is no research, and there has been plenty of it done, to show that if we are less likely to get injured if we stretch first. Here are a few of my guidelines regarding static stretching that may help you understand how and when to better use it.

1. Consider what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to lengthen your tissues and increase flexibility than a stretching program may be the right option. Static stretching for a muscle strain injury can be beneficial also when prescribed correctly.

2. Never try to stretch away an injury. A common mistake for many is to stretch where the pain is felt. For example, that nagging hamstring strain could actually be sciatic nerve irritation. When we stretch muscle, other things go with it. We may be adding stress to nerves and joints. Make sure you are not causing more harm than good.

3. When should you stretch? Stretch after you have done enough activity to increase your body temperature. A general rule is increase your heart rate and maintain it for 10 minutes. Yes, a brisk continuous walk is enough to increase your heart rate.

4. There is a better way to “warm-up”. A goal with a warm-up is to progressively build towards your athletic endeavor or workout. Examples include running at a very easy pace (if your sport includes running) or controlled movements like body weight squats and lunges. This allows the muscles used to contract and stretch and provides general joint motion which increase blood flow to the areas used and replicates movement specific to your workout.

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