New Ideas on Proper Stretching Techniques
Some stretching routines may hinder, not help, your athletic performance.
7 Things You Need to Know about Proper Stretching Techniques continued...
"Improving your flexibility allows you to put your body in good ergonomic
alignment," Schatz says. "Yoga can help you combine flexibility and strength,
breathe properly, reduce head, neck, and back pain, and put the
body back in balance."
After your workout or competition, then do static stretches.
"Too many people do static stretching before and then nothing after," says
Holcomb. "That's the most common mistake I see." This is where you'll lengthen
muscles and improve your flexibility. Hold static stretches for about 30
Learn warm-ups and stretches particular to your sport. Levine's team
takes care of 29 varsity teams, so he's seen every kind of sports injury there
"For example, football linemen are vulnerable to shoulder tears," he says.
"Runners may suffer knee problems and shin
splints. For golfers, the lower back is often the hot spot."
New research shows it's a good move to learn stretching routines customized
for your sport and to help prevent the injuries most common to it. The Santa
Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation in California studied
women soccer players who are subject to ACL tears and created a program called
Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP). The program (which can be
downloaded at http://www.aclprevent.com/pepprogram.htm)
includes a warm-up and stretches (as well as strengthening and agility
exercises) specifically designed to prevent ACL injuries.
Never stretch to the point of pain. Forget the phrase "no pain, no
gain. "You do not want pain when you're doing dynamic stretching," says
Holcomb. "It should be gentle to start and then progress." When you're doing
your static stretching afterward, you should go to the point of slight
discomfort and intensity, he says, to improve your flexibility. But if you're
making a face, your muscle is contracting to protect itself, which is
Stretch to de-stress. These are stressed-out times, and stretching
can help. "As you know, your mind affects your body, and your body affects your
mind," says Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research
Institute in Sausalito, Calif., and author of The Spectrum. "During
times of emotional stress, the muscles in your body contract. This is an
adaptive response to acute stress, as it fortifies your 'body armor' so that in
times of danger, if you get hit, for example, your muscles help to protect
"However, in times of chronic stress, these same mechanisms that have
evolved to protect us can create problems -- chronically tensed muscles,
especially those in the back and neck, predispose to chronic pain or injury.
stress management techniques can help prevent this. Also, gentle stretching
of chronically tensed muscles provide relaxation to the mind as well as the