Stretching used to be a common ritual among gym-goers and sportsmen due to the proclaimed benefits of preventing injury and loosening tight joints. New research however has persuaded people away from this practice for a few good reasons. Here are 4 different approaches to stretching:
This is the classic ritual that has been mentioned. There is some merit to the thinking that it helps to prevent injury and it could be beneficial to some depending on your activity and your wanted outcomes. This is because stretching temporarily reduces one’s power output due to the lengthening of the muscle that it creates. This means that if you are lifting heavy weights, you won’t be performing at your very best if you have stretched before it. If you are going for a long-distance run, however, it would prove beneficial to stretch to lubricate your knee joints with synovial fluid and send blood to your muscles in advance.
Stretching can still be helpful in maintaining mobility, joint health, and greater ranges of motion. Done after exercise however, will allow you to weightlift at your maximum capacity and allow blood flow to linger in the muscles post-exercise which could promote faster recovery. The only issue would be that if done for long enough, it is entirely possible that this practice could reduce your muscle output in the long term so it is risky for power athletes.
Once every week:
This strategy has been proposed for those lifters who want to minimize the risk of lengthening their muscles permanently by doing the practice of stretching just once a week. This has been proven to still be able to keep joints mobile without becoming too stiff.
This is obviously not the best option available but it does give you the comfort of knowing that your power output will not be gimped by the practice of stretching. It would be advised though to have a light cardio warmup and cool down for 10 min before and after a session to try to get the benefits of stretching without the risk to one’s power output.
To stretch or not to stretch that is the question! It all depends on you and your goals but I would say that for most people stretching after an exercise session would provide the most benefits. Athletes must ask their coach which approach is best suited to their sport.