Should you stretch? If so, when should you stretch? This depends on what type of stretching, when you are stretching and why you are stretching.
The different stretches are static stretching, which involves taking a muscle to a slightly uncomfortable length and holding it for 30-60 seconds.
Dynamic stretching involves reciprocal inhibition (contracting one muscle to relax its opposite) in order to improve the range of motion at a joint.
Ballistic involves a quick contraction past the point of comfort and is not recommended.
Prior to performing an activity it is important to promote blood flow and excite the nervous system. This is best accomplished by doing some sort of calisthenics, dynamic stretching, jogging or body weight exercises to engage your neuromuscular system. The purpose of this is to prime your body prior to the activity it is about to undertake. Doing exercises that stimulate your body will prep it for the work that is to come. Static stretching prior to activity is not recommended since it can decrease performance. This makes sense since static stretching is meant to be relaxing and calming to your nervous system. This is the exact opposite of what you want when it comes to exercise and competition where the goal is to excite your nervous system to perform well.
At the end of a workout, it is ok to static stretch. It may not decrease the change of being sore, but if it feels good, then go for it! You can also static stretch throughout the day if you have muscles or regions that are chronically tight, such as hip flexors and shoulders if you are sitting all day long. Stretching like this can help alleviate that tension in your body.
Static stretching may also be used if you are recovering from an injury that has caused some muscle tightness and restrictions. You may need to stretch that area in order to improve your health and functioning at that joint.
You can also try a yoga class if you are trying to improve general flexibility. Different types of yoga have different goals, but they each involve holding varying degrees of positions in order to strengthen your body (and your mind). By holding the positions you can reset your muscle tension and improve general flexibility.
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*This site is for educational purposes only, it is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace medical advice. Before starting an exercise program always make sure that you are healthy and able to do so safely.*