Why should we stretch?

Lately I have come across a number of people who do not believe in stretching after completing a workout or training session. The importance of training for suppleness (flexibility) cannot be overlooked. Stretching is often left out of many peoples overall training programs as they feel it is unnecessary and they do not understand or know the benefits to taking the time to stretch after a workout.

In actual fact, there are many benefits to stretching:

  • Increases your range of movement
  • Improves posture
  • Decreases the chance of injury
  • Increased muscular strength
  • Enhances relaxation physically and mentally
  • Reduces muscle pain
  • Improves blood flow through the muscle

Poor flexibility can lead to added stress being applied on the muscle as it moves through a movement or exercise. Having poor flexibility in a particular part of the body can have affects on other areas of the body indirectly. For instance, tight hamstrings and hip flexors has been linked to lower back pain.

Think about it, when we are doing an exercise the main muscle/s contracting to complete that movement are shortening to pull our bones in the appropriate direction. If we are to maintain or improve our joints range of movement we need to be stretching our muscles back out to their original state or beyond for improved range of movement and flexibility.

Stretching exercises fall in to 4 main catergories depending on the way in which the stretch is performed.

Dynamic or Active stretching – also known as functional stretching is using the range of a joint movement in the performance of a physical activity at slow or fast speeds. For instance, a dancer slowly raising and holding their leg at a 50 degree angle would be an example of slow dynamic stretching and a football player raising their leg out in front of them in the kicking motion would be an example of ‘fast’. Often used in the warm up stage of the session.



Static or Passive stretching – Is taking the joint through its range of movement and holding the stretch at its furthest point for a period of 20-30 seconds. The slow stretch causes an inverse stretch reflex which helps the muscle to relax and then be stretch again. This form of stretching is the safest and most common type of stretching.



Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF Stetching) stretching – This type of stretch was originally designed as a rehabilitative physiotherapy technique. PNF uses an isometric contraction prior to the stretch to achieve greater gains than are typically achieved through static stretching. To perform a PNF stretch, take a muscle to its end range and hold the stretch, then perform an isometric contraction of the muscle for 5-6 seconds, then relax the muscle and take it to a further end range before repeating the process 3-5 times. This type of stretch is best done with a qualified personal trainer.

Ballistic stretching – Involves taking the joint beyond its normal range of motion by using momentum from bouncing at the end range. This type of stretch can cause muscle tears if the body is not properly prepared therefore it should be left to the trained athlete who can be conditioned for this type of stretching.

So, there you have a bit of an overview on the benefits and types of stretching. I hope this has been helpful and entices you to do a good stretch at the completion of your session.