Stretch to Flex
“I don’t have time to stretch”.
“Stretching is boring. I would rather spend more of my time on my training plan, especially when my time is limited”.
“I’m achieving my goals without stretching, so why should I bother?”
I hear these comments a lot when I ask people the question, “do you stretch and why?”
Although flexibility training has been around for a long time with free stretch routines now popping up on YouTube regularly and Yoga being a popular choice for participants to increase their muscle elasticity, why aren’t more people partaking in this activity?
As a theorist, I need to know why I am doing something, and its benefits for me, to be motivated to carry out the activity.
How can stretching benefit me?
It can give a reduction in the loss of flexibility (especially in the shoulder and hip joints), which can lead to a decline in trunk stabilisation. Between the ages of 55 to 86 we can experience a decrease of 6 degrees per decade (1).
It can promote blood flow to the muscle, and lower the perception of muscle soreness. This can lead to a quicker recovery (5).
It can improve posture and reduce pain by loosening tight muscles. This is very significant if your posture is compromised during your day (2) .
It can decrease neural stimulation leading to relaxation and stress relief. This is super important for dealing with those stressful times and being able to switch off when required.
What type of stretching should I do to benefit me?
This depends on what your outcome is and where the stretch is performed within the workout plan. Some main types of stretching regularly performed are:
Dynamic: Generally performed at the beginning of a workout. Can aid sports performance if performed in a rhythmic and controlled manner (3).
Static (maintenance and developmental): usually performed at the end of a workout to retain or increase the elasticity of a muscle and become more flexible.
Passive: Using additional supports (objects or people) to be able to deepen the stretch. A lot of Personal Trainers will use this approach and stretch their clients; offering a ‘USP’ to their service.
(Feel free to contact me directly if you are interested in learning more about the different ways that you can stretch your muscles to aid your lifestyle).
Stretching is not just about being able to touch your toes
Contrary to previous beliefs that stretching is only performed by professionals that need flexibility for their sport, much research has now shown that stretching can benefit a plethora of activities, where flexibility is not the main component. Incorporating dynamic stretching into warm -ups can increase range of movement in major joints and aid lower limb power in sports that require jumping (3), whilst recovery rates can be massively improved through static stretches performed for 2-5 mins post-workout (6). This may be of interest to those that like being active daily and don’t want the dreaded muscle soreness holding them back!
How can I turn stretching into a habit to make it easier for me to perform regularly?
I often talk about stretching being easily incorporated into your daily routine. Here’s how you can do it:
1: Choose just one or two (max) stretches that would greatly benefit your body (start with a small goal).
2: Associate these stretches with something you carry out every day (for example, brushing your teeth or making a hot drink) and stretch at this time.
3: Reward yourself with the achievement of completing the task afterwards. This is the really important thing to do! The feeling of success can promote a shift in behaviour through increased motivation and emotion and contribute to making this a longer- term habit (4).
Now think about the question again, “do you stretch and why”? Would you want to change your answer now you know more of the details…?
1. Liza Stathokostas, Matthew W. McDonald, 2 Robert M. D. Little, Donald H. Paterson (2013) Flexibility of Older Adults Aged 55–86 Years and the Influence of Physical Activity J Aging Res. Published online 2013 Jun 19. doi: 10.1155/2013/743843.
2. Rider R. A and Daly J. (1991) Effects of flexibility training on enhancing spinal mobility in older women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 31(2):213–217.
3. Wie-Cheng Lin, Chia-Lun Lee, Nai-Jen Chang (2020) Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching Followed by Vibration Foam Rolling on Sports Performance of Badminton Athletes Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 19(2): 420–428.
4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAQlXfX4Lnc: Behaviour Expert Reveals 3 Secrets That Make Habits Stick: BJ Fogg | Bitesize
5. Nikos C. Apostolopoulos, Ian M. Lahart, Michael J. Plyley, Jack Taunton, Alan M. Nevill, Yiannis Koutedakis, Matthew Wyon, and George S.Metsios (2018) The effects of different passive static stretching intensities on recovery from unaccustomed eccentric exercise – a randomized controlled trial, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, Volume 43, Number 8.
6. Emine Caliskan, Orkun Akkoc2, Zuhal Bayramoglu, Omer Batin Gozubuyuk, Doga Kural, Sena Azamat, Ibrahim Adaletli (2019) Effects of static stretching duration on muscle stiffness and blood flow in the rectus femoris in adolescents, Med Ultrason 2019, Vol. 21, no. 2, 136-143