Ask Trainer Jake: Why stretch
Q: I don’t stretch and I was told I should start. I’ve never had to stretch so why should I start?
The misconception here is the idea that everyone needs to stretch. Is stretching good? Yes. Do most people need to stretch? I would say yes. Most of the pain that comes with daily habits of repetitive movement are fixed with stretching! So how much stretching needs to be done? Sometimes a lot. Sometimes a little. The more exercise you do, the more likely you are going to need to stretch.
Think about what happens when you work a muscle. You tear it a little, you make it tight, and if you leave it un-stretched, there is a chance that the muscle shortens indefinitely and/or you get a muscle knot. Those of you who have had a knot in your back know how painful that can be. The knot is just a really tight muscle that needs to be stretched out and is also referred to as a myofascial trigger point.
It’s up to you to decide if stretching is needed, and the best way to know is to have a fitness professional/trainer to look at some of your joint range of motion. Range of motion is limited by tight muscles, so if you have trouble pulling your knee to your chest, or if you can only bend down so far, a range of motion assessment would benefit you.
Here are a few benefits to stretching:
- Increased flexibility can equate to a decrease in muscle energy absorption and trauma to muscle fibers. You are at a smaller chance of injury because your muscles can take on more force.
- A stiff or tight muscle must work harder to perform the work required for a particular activity. It’s limited range of motion won’t allow proper movement and therefore decrease overall performance.
- Stretching has also been known to reduce self-reported muscle tension, which decreased the level of stress-related hormones and in turn decreased feelings of sadness.
Precautions for Stretching
- Seniors and hypertensive patients
- Those with neuromuscular disorders
- Joint replacements
Contraindications for Stretching
- Acute injury or muscle strain or tear of the muscle being stretched
- Acute rheumatoid arthritis of the affected joint
Stretching takes time, it can hurt if you are very tight, and sometimes we feel as if it doesn’t do anything for us. No one is going to make you stretch if you don’t want to do it. Please consider having a trainer or fitness professional look at your joint range of motion just to see if stretching could help you out. The benefits outweigh the time it takes to incorporate a stretching routine.