Like anything stretching is a very important of an athlete and their training and if done properly can give you positive gains. I know for a fact it not done regularly by most cause it's time you don't have but it's time you need to make.
To start its always good to have a basic knowledge in anatomy and not relying on a person to tell you how to stretch. Here's some anatomy tips that can get you started:
- quadriceps are a group of 4 muscles situated in the front of your thigh attached to the femour/ thigh bone near the top and run down around the patella/ knee cap to the tibia /shin bone and they extend your knee. But, due to 1 of the muscle group known as the rectus femoris attaching to the front of he pelvis it assist with flexing the hip so remember when you stretch your quads make sure you are extending through the hip so you're stretch all of the quad and not just 75% of it.
- your long head of biceps and triceps attach to you glenoid (which is the socket part of your shoulder joint) to below or at the elbow joint so you need to make sure that when stretching these your limiting the movement of your shoulder girdle to guarantee and effective stretch.
- in your calf there is your gastrocnemius which is what you see when you look at the calf muscle and the soleus is situated deeper behind that. The gastrocnemius attaches from the back of your heel (the calcaneous) and attach to the lower end of the femur. So to stretch this you need to make sure your knee is straight which is also the same when exercising this muscle but the soleus attaches to the top of the lower leg bones the (tibia and fibula) so you don't need to maintain knee extension to stretch this. These are good muscle groups to stretch when you need to get lower down through your hips on the deadlift and still need to keep your feet in full contact with the floor.
- there are some muscles that you can't stretch in unison like the piriformis muscle which is situated behind the gluteus maximus muscle
When do you stretch and what type of stretch?
There are 3 types of stretching static, dynamic and ballistic:
- Static stretching is where you hold your muscle in its lengthened position to the point of strain and hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Dynamic stretches are when you stretch a muscle/muscle group to a lengthened position with movement. E.G. Squat on an empty bar, leg swings, thoracic rotations, etc. These movements are good when repeated for 8-10 repetitions. The movements are slow and controlled and as with static there should be no bouncing the stretch.
- Ballistic stretches are the same as dynamic however you need to warm up first to prevent injury. These are quicker than dynamic and tend to be more bouncy E.G. Side step bounces, hopping, pressing with light resistant band.
All stretches should be pain free and controlled and make sure your warm so, for instance don't statically stretch your hamstrings when the muscle is cold. I don't typically use ballistic stretches but they are helpful if you compete in rugby, football, hockey, etc.
The type of stretch depends on what exercise your going to be doing and what type of stretch. So before strength and power training static stretching will only inhibit your power and has been shown to reduce strength up to 5%. For strength training the best thing to do is stretch it dynamically so warming up on the equipment or mimic the movements of the exercise. Static stretching is typically what you need to do after the exercise.
Ultimately stretching statically or dynamically before exercise won't do you any harm except loose a small percentage of power and strength. There is research that is suggestive that stretching before exercise won't help prevent injury in relation to post workout stretches. As long as the stretch is controlled and carried out properly there is no reason why you can't stretch pre and post if it helps your mindset for a training session or competition.
What are the benefits of stretching?
These are widely known and supported and they are:
- improving your joint range of movement (ROM)
- improve your soft tissue flexibility.
- improve the blood flow to you muscle which in turn reduce your recovery time.
- prevent biomechanically restriction
- injury prevention
So stretching like anything can be good or bad but always an effective tool when done properly.
Let me know what you think.