Why do you need to stretch?

• It can optimise your potential for different activities.

• It helps prepare the body for the demands placed upon it in training or racing.

• Heighten your awareness of your bodily movements.

• Reduce the risk of joint sprains, muscle strains and muscle soreness.

• Reduce the risk of back problems.

• Reduce the tension of muscles.

Dynamic stretching

This type of stretching is also known as functional stretching. It basically involves moving the muscles through a range of movements that you will mimic in the activity that you will be doing. It is probably the best form of stretching that you can do prior to exercise. What is more, through stretching dynamically you can keep the core temperature of the body higher due to movement and keep the heart rate up, whereas static stretching will allow both of these important pre-exercise conditions to drop. Dynamic stretching has been demonstrated through research to enhance flexibility and can improve optimum flexibility, which is essential for all sports.

Static stretching

This is the most commonly used form of stretching. It involves moving the limb and then holding when the stretch is felt. The stretch occurs when the muscles are at or near their maximum Range of Motion. Most recreational athletes use this type of stretching as their warm up for activity. Although this in itself is not a bad form of stretching, recent evidence has shown that dynamic stretching is a better form of stretching prior to exercise. The primary function of stretching before exercise is to raise the body’s core temperature. However, the body is stationary during static stretches and therefore the body’s temperature drops. This can actually lead to straining or pulling of muscles. With this said, static stretching is recognised as the easiest and most effective form of stretching to improve flexibility. Static stretches therefore should be used as a means to improve flexibility after exercise or during flexibility sessions. Static stretching is the best way to improve flexibility on a day-to-day basis but not the best way to warm up.