Stretching can really increase your performance. It can also give you more injuries and take time away from you practicing sports skills.
First, Do You Need to Stretch?
Really, do you need to stretch? Are you doing a sport or activity like gymnastics, Taekwondo, contortion, or something else that needs you to have super flexibility?
If not, you have no reason to stretch. You won’t be using your improved range of motion in your sport, and you’re wasting valuable time you could be using to practice.
Don’t Stretch Before Exercise
Yea, do not stretch before you do your exercise. If you don’t need the range of motion, you’re just wasting time. Put it to better use by practicing techniques.
You could also hurt yourself. Stretching will increase your range of motion, but if you don’t have strength throughout that entire range, you’ve just gotten a more weak and highly injury prone area. You’re giving yourself extra weaknesses.
Even if you don’t hurt yourself, you’re probably decreasing your performance. A lot of tests and studies have been done showing that stretching before you lift weights actually decreases your ability to generate force.
Tight muscles are much better at not getting injured and tensing up than stretched muscles. If you need to do stretches for greater range of motion, do them after your workout.
Ballistic Stretches For Warming Up
Some stretches that you can do to boost your performance are called ballistic stretches. These are pretty easy to do and they effectively warm you up. They also allow you to exploit the full range of motion that you already possess.
Ballistic stretching simply means moving a joint through its range of motion. A good example would be swinging your arm in circles to loosen up your shoulder before a workout. Leg swings from your hip also serve the same function.
These are far superior to the static stretches (lying-on-the-floor-and-reaching stretches) that most people do before a workout. So, try doing some ballistics.
Specialty Stretches For Special People
If you do need a greater range of motion, there are several great ways to get there. They are much better than simple static stretching, but I’ll touch on just two of them right now.
PNF stretches (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretches) are just the thing if you have a partner that you trust. Basically, you take a static stretching position, contract your muscles for 10-20 seconds, and then relax and ease into your stretch.
Have your partner gently help ease you deeper into the stretch. Do this several times in a row, and you’ll see a dramatic increase in your flexibility immediately.
Isometric stretching is similar but it’s just without the partner. You tense your muscles, and then relax and ease deeper into your stretch.
Keep in mind that these are just basic guidelines. Look up those types of stretching in more detail to see how to do them to get the greatest results. Also, make sure you know how to avoid hurting yourself!
Now, Go Do Your Stretching
Okay, you’ve learned about the benefits and dangers of stretching and what stretching techniques to use if you need to get more range of motion fast. So, stop reading and start stretching!