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Is stretching important? Is stretching part of your fitness routine? Do you stretch on a regular basis? What are the benefits of stretching?
Most athletes, older adults, rehabilitation patients and anyone on a fitness program probably incorporate stretching on a regular basis. I know I do.
But would you be surprised if I told you that stretching may not be as important as you may think?
Is Stretching Important?
Stretching may be performed pre-workout for enhancing performance and to reduce the risk of injury. Alternatively, stretching performed post-workout is normally for reducing muscle soreness.
However, many studies show that stretching pre- or post-workout results in minimal benefits.
I’ve noticed that with my powerlifting program, I performed better when stretching pre-workout. The reason being is that my muscles needed to be activated in order to do the heavy lifts without injury. Activation exercises are similar to stretching. It’s also known as mobility exercises. More on muscle activation here.
Types of Stretching
There are 2 types of stretches:
- Static Stretching
Static stretches involves no motion and affects static flexibility. It involves stretching to the farthest point and holding the position.
- Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretches involves motion and affects dynamic flexibility. It involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing stretch. Also, dynamic stretching consists of controlled movements that gently takes you to the limits of your range of motion. It is normally part of a warm up for a cardiovascular session.
While studies show that the benefits of stretching are minimal, I believe that the benefits depend on the right stretches for your goal or purpose.
Studies show that dynamic and static stretching produced minimal increase in power and flexibility. Moreover, some studies show that there was a loss of strength with acute static stretching. This may apply to strength training.
Alternatively, some studies show that stretching is not effective at reducing the risk of injury. In fact, very few showed that stretching alone can reduce muscular injuries.
Benefits of Stretching
In summary, the benefits of stretching may be individualized. If you are looking to increase your range of motion (ROM), both static and dynamic stretching may be effective. In addition, static stretching is better suited for older adults and dynamic stretching for strength and performance.
For me, stretching helps with stiffness from sitting for most of the day. It helps alleviate stiffness in my hip flexors. By relieving this stiffness, it will increase my mobility and help with my squats. In addition, greater mobility (in my opinion) reduces the risk of injury in my hips and lower back.
I believe that we all need to find out what works best for us. Hence why the benefits of stretching is individualized. So let’s figure it out and continue to work on you!