OVER the years, there has been a lot of controversy over whether or not stretching before a workout in order to prevent injuries is beneficial. Many experts and professionals from different fields will say that it does in fact help prevent injuries from occurring while others will disagree.

A case study done at McMaster University published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine concluded that “stretching had no effect in reducing injuries.” The results from a study by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also sug- gested that “stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of injury.”

While many experts have concluded that stretching may not reduce the risk of injury, stretching does have other benefits whether you are a fitness enthusiast or not. In fact, stretching at any time during the day is beneficial to keep the flow of circulation going, especially if you are at a job that keeps you in the same position for a long period of time such as sitting in front of a computer.

As a personal trainer and an athlete with a martial arts background, I have always used stretching to assist me with my flexibility and decrease my muscle soreness, thus improving my overall performance.

Whether you are a fitness newbie or a seasoned vet, stretching improves flexibility, loosens tendons and muscles, improves your range of motion at your joints, increases performance and helps the flow of circulation. Before stretching, be sure to spend five minutes doing a gentle warm-up to get the blood flowing.

What muscles do we need to stretch?
As you would with a strength training routine, you must design a stretch routine to focus on your imbalances. Over time, improvements in your flexibility and range of motion will also improve your athletic performance.

Tailor your stretches to the activity or sport you are doing. Divide your stretching routine into upper and lower body movements. Focus on larger muscles such as the chest, back, arms, and shoulders to target the upper portion; and the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves to focus on the lower half.

Remember, not all stretches are the same. You can maximize your workout by pairing it with one of the proper stretch techniques below:

Static stretching: Hold the stretch for anywhere from 10 seconds to 60 seconds. Although this stretch is great for a post- workout routine, it is also a great type of stretch for moving exercises such as jogging and running. Stretching out the muscles you are going to use and holding them will loosen the muscles and tendons needed to perform an exercise that requires more endurance.

Dynamic stretching: Stretches that mimic the exercises you are about to perform: Chest stretch, air squats, arm circles, etc. This stretch technique is better used for strength and conditioning exercises such as weight lifting.

Tips to remember while stretching

Do a gentle warm-up first.
Hold each stretch for 10–60 seconds.
Stretch to just the point of discomfort.
Stop stretching if you are feeling any discomfort or pain during the stretch.

Do not hold your breath while stretching; exhale slowly. As always, if you have any health concerns, consult with your doctor about the most appropriate way to stretch. Z

Author: Nichelle Laus is the owner of Optimum Training Centre in Toronto, Ontario. A fitness and cover model, Figure and Bikini competitor, competition preparation and transformation coach for Team Laus (nichellelaus.com), she is a certified personal trainer, and kickboxing and kettlebell instructor. She is also a motivational speaker and proud mom of four boys under the age of eight. She loves to teach and inspire others that you can do anything if you want it bad enough. She has a been a regular contributor to Optimyz for several years.

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