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When Is The Best Time To Stretch?

Updated: Feb 16

The question of whether to stretch before or after sports or exercise is a common one we receive as physiotherapists. The answer depends on several factors, including the type of stretching, the desired outcome, and the nature of the activity or performance.

First, let's examine the two primary types of stretching techniques and their respective advantages:

  • Static stretching: This technique involves holding a low-intensity stretch position for 30 to 60 seconds, repeating it 1 to 4 times. Static stretching helps improve flexibility and joint range of motion.

  • Dynamic stretching: In contrast, dynamic stretching entails moving a body part through a range of motion without holding any specific position. Dynamic stretching helps activate muscles, increase blood flow, and enhance functional movements.

What Is The Main Objective Of Stretching?


The primary objective of stretching is to enhance joint and body part mobility, leading to improved performance and decreased injury risk. Based on current research, we understand that stretching can be beneficial, but the specific type of stretching required may vary depending on the activity type and whether it is performed before or after the activity. This tailored approach to stretching is crucial for achieving optimal performance and preventing injuries.


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The Low Down On Static Stretching...


Static stretching has the potential to elongate muscles, improve joint mobility, and expand the range of motion. Athletes who rely on flexibility, like hockey goalies, gymnasts, and wrestlers, may find static stretching beneficial before their performance as it helps them attain the necessary range of motion for their activity or sport. However, it is important to note that there is evidence suggesting that static stretching prior to performance can have adverse effects, such as reduced power, explosiveness, and an increased risk of injury.



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What About Dynamic Stretching?


Performing end-range movements that lengthen muscles without holding a stretch can enhance mobility and joint range of motion while promoting blood circulation. Dynamic stretching, which involves active movements, has been shown to be more effective than static stretching in maximizing power. Athletes engaged in sports emphasizing running, jumping, or explosive movements derive the greatest advantages from dynamic stretching before activity. This type of stretching helps their muscles maintain the necessary tension to generate optimal force while also reducing the risk of injury.



So....Should You Stretch Before Or After Physical Activity?


According to current research, dynamic stretching is highly recommended before most activities to optimize performance and minimize the risk of injury. It is recommended to combine dynamic stretching with a cardiovascular warm-up and sport-specific dynamic exercises. On the other hand, static stretching and low-impact aerobic activity are most beneficial as a cooldown after activity. The advantages of static stretching, such as muscle lengthening and tension reduction, outweigh the potential negative effects on performance and increased injury risk.

When planning your stretching routine, it is important to consider the specific demands of your sport or activity and your performance goals. If you're unsure where to start or have previous injuries, a Clearwater Physical Therapist can provide you with personalized exercises and stretches to help you achieve your objectives. You can find a Clearwater Physical Therapy Clinic near you or book an appointment online through our Locations & Services page.


 

Let us assist you in improving your movement and well-being. Schedule an appointment with us today.




 

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