Stretching Exercises

Do stretching exercises improve flexibility? If so, what kind of stretches are best? Is it best to do your stretching exercises before a work out, after exercise, or both? Does stretching enhance athletic performance or does it diminish it? Can an athlete prevent injuries with stretching? For answers to these and other questions, keep reading.


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Benefits of Stretching Exercises

  1. Increased flexibility
  2. Flexibility allows us to accomplish everyday tasks of daily living such as bending over to tie our shoes, or reaching to put groceries away in a cupboard. More demanding tasks such as jumping to throw a basketball or swim 100 meters are also easier if your joints can be taken through a full range of motion with minimal effort.
  3. Flexibility minimizes our risk of injury by allowing joints to move through their full range of motion without putting strain on ligaments or capsular structures.
  4. Flexibility allows for good circulation. This circulation is necessary to provide working muscles with nutrients and to allow for a speedy recovery following exercise.
  5. Flexibility allows you to maintain a good posture. Tight muscles will pull you into poor postures.
  6. Stretching exercises help muscles to relax, relieving tension.

Differing conclusions have been dealt amongst dozens of research papers in attempts to answer the above questions.  With this website I hope to address these and other issues based on my own research and clinical experience.  I hope to explain various stretching techniques including static stretching, dynamic stretching, PNF, myofascial release and that done in the practice of yoga.

I include stretching techniques for major muscle groups as well as more advanced stretches for particular sports. Included are illustrated demonstrations of the practical application of various stretches for different muscle groups.

I discuss factors that affect flexibility, although there is differing opinions regarding possible benefits of stretching programs, I will attempt to focus on more generally accepted research findings and less on the controversial claims.  I will attempt to include relevant references. With this website I hope to improve peoples understanding of flexibility and the application of techniques in stretching.

Stretching and Perfomance

We need to be careful when jumping to conclusions when it comes to improving sports performance.  The world of competitive athletics tends to promote new ideas with little thought about the evidence in an attempt to stay one step ahead of competition.  Marketing to sports organizations and athletes is often anecdotal and testimonial based. As physical therapists it is our job to support evidence based clinical decision making and cut through all the sales efforts.

Just because static stretching doesn't improve athletic performance doesn't mean we should discontinue it. We know it helps to improve and maintain  range of motion.  We now have research that supports dynamic stretching as a method to improve sports performance, but we don't have guidelines or protocols  for its most effective application. 
Probably the most effective means of preventing injury and optimizing sports performance is a combination of all the stretching techniques.