Stretching is part of a routine we go through, before and after exercising and to help prevent injury. More and more evidence from scientific literature are telling us when to stretch and when not to, often with confusing and contradictory information.
A couple terms that always seem to be at the forefront of the debate is dynamic stretching and static stretching. The leading evidence suggests that static stretching may be detrimental immediately before exercising (reference). Even though it has benefits such as improving flexibility. However, the evidence suggests that sustained static stretches can cause micro tears in the muscle. Therefore, should not be performed just before exercising. Instead a focus should be on dynamic stretching (video example). As this helps move more of the circulating blood from our internal organs to muscles, essentially getting them “warm” before exercising and reducing the chance of injury.
I read an interesting article regarding when to stretch (To stretch or not to stretch). It helps to summarise the benefits of when to stretch and what kind of stretching to do. A key focus of the article is comparing stretching to strength training, with positive results in strength training reducing the time to get back to normal function/training.
The key points to take home about stretching are:
Static stretching helps to improve flexibility.
Dynamic stretching is more beneficial to do before exercising.
Strengthening training combined with static stretching will decrease the time taken to recover from an injury.