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REHAB IN MOTION: How to stretch those muscles properly

Everyone knows that stretching before doing any sort of activity helps to prevent injuries, right?

Well, actually it doesn’t. Several studies that have been done in the last couple of years show that stretching before engaging in some sort of physical activity doesn’t actually decrease your risk of injury at all.

Does this mean that stretching is not important?

Well of course not. A good stretching routine is often the most neglected step in ensuring that you are properly prepared for a workout in your chosen sport.

Instead of stretching intensely for a few minutes before the game, stretches should be done every day to increase overall flexibility.

This helps to keep muscles flexible and loose. This allows them to perform better than tight muscles.

Joints are able to move through different positions required for a sport with less stress on the joints. Proper flexibility can result in better power generation and generally better performance.

Stretching immediately before you play does not prepare your muscles very well for the activity they are about to do.

Instead, do your stretches regularly outside of your warm-up and use your warm-up to practice what you are about to do.

For example, a softball warm-up should involve gently throwing, running and batting practice to warm the muscles up and get them used to the activity that they are about to do. In the long run this will be much more effective for preventing injury.

So, now that we have established that you should be doing a stretching program regularly, what things are important to make sure your stretching program is effective?

Know your sport.

Whether you’re in the gym, on the track, or anywhere else, it’s important to know what your workout will involve. Understanding which muscles will be worked is the only way to know how to best stretch out. Focus on those muscles. While a good overall routine is helpful, your emphasis should be on the muscles that will be most heavily involved in your workout.

You can’t stretch everything, every time.

Warm up before stretching. Just some easy walking or a light jog will be sufficient to warm up your muscles, and make the stretching easier, think warm vs. cold taffy.

Begin slowly. You don’t need to touch your toes right away: Begin slowly and push yourself as your muscles loosen up. Stretching too much, too soon can be painful and potentially harmful.

Hold the stretch, and don’t bounce. Once you feel your muscles reaching their limit, hold the position for a count of 10. Then push yourself a little further and hold again for a count of 10. Finally, get professional help. Gym trainers, physical therapists, and exercise instructors will all know great ways to stretch. When you’re getting started, have someone knowledgeable watch your routine and offer suggestions to ensure that your stretching routine truly helps to prevent injuries and improve your sports performance.

Ben Chatterson is a physiotherapist at Rehabilitation in Motion which has four Island locations including two in Campbell River – Willow Point (250) 923-3773 and Quinsam (across from Save On Foods), (250) 286-9670 – as well as Comox Valley (250) 334-9670 and Port Alberni (250) 723-9675. Ben Chatterson works at the Comox Valley Clinic. Visit www.rehabinmotion.com

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