The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

Many people make the assumption that stretching and warming up are pretty much the same thing, when in fact they are quite different. Warming up is the preparation of your body for the demands of the physical activity you have planned, whereas stretching is focused on specific areas that are tight and require loosening.

While studies have shown mixed results on the effectiveness of stretching, possible benefits include:

  • increased range of motion in the joints
  • improved muscular coordination
  • reduced level of muscle tension
  • improves flexibility
  • and enhanced circulation

Stretching exercises should be performed for 5 – 10 mins and should concentrate on the muscles that feel tight. Be aware of your body – mild discomfort (tension and pull) is to be expected while holding a stretch but sharp pain is usually a signal that a person has pushed too far.

Static vs. Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching consists of functional based exercises which use sport specific movements to prepare the body for activity. Generally performed before a work out, they consist of controlled exercises that improve range of motion, loosen up your muscles and increase your heart rate.

Static stretching is the slow and constant movement of a muscle to a fixed end point, and can be held for up to 30 seconds. Holding a muscle in an elongated, fixed position can hurt performance if done before a workout, so it’s recommended that this type of stretching is most appropriate to perform as part of your cool down.

When is a good time to stretch?

Stretching your body should be done after your muscles are already sufficiently warmed up. Give yourself 15-20 minutes to work up a bit of sweat, then add in 5 – 10 minutes of stretching.

Evidence suggests that athletes can benefit from a regular stretching program if it executed properly and timed within a workout to reduce the risk of injury. Aside from the physical benefits, stretching can also provide a proper mindset and mental focus for the training ahead.


References

1. Graetzer D. Feel the heat: Get warm before taking the court. Handball. February 2012;62(1):36-37.
2. Legg J. THE ROLE OF STRETCHING IN WARMUP FOR PERFORMANCE, AND INJURY PREVENTION. Strength & Conditioning Coach. October 2007;15(3):7-10.
3. McHugh M, Cosgrave C. To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports. April 2010;20(2):169-181.
4. Small K, McNaughton L, Matthews M. A Systematic Review into the Efficacy of Static Stretching as Part of a Warm-Up for the Prevention of Exercise-Related Injury. Research In Sports Medicine. July 2008;16(3):213-231.
5. Stone M, Ramsey M, Kinser A, O’Bryant H, Ayers C, Sands W. Stretching: Acute and Chronic? The Potential Consequences. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Allen Press). December 2006;28(6):66-74.
6. The Impact of Stretching on Sports-Injury Risk and Performance. Athletic Therapy Today. November 2006;11(6):66-69.
7. Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury. Sports Medicine. September 2007;37(12):1089-1099.