By Stephen Knoyer, DC, CCSP
As I sports chiropractor, I am often asked what types of stretches are the best to do, how long should the stretch be performed, and how often should they be done?
Before we get into the benefits of stretching, let’s first quickly mention the possible benefit of not stretching. The tighter you are the more metabolically efficient you are, which means you can run faster for longer. Research will validate this point. However, the tighter the muscle, the easier it is strained and it will increase delayed onset muscle soreness. This means getting to the next workout will take longer because you are sore and can’t produce as much force as a muscle with more flexibility.
To prove that tight muscles are more prone to injury, researchers classified subjects as either stiff or flexible before having them perform repeated hamstring curls to fatigue. After the workout, the stiffer subjects complained of greater muscle pain and weakness. There is also an enzyme called creatine kinase which measures the amount of muscle breakdown after exercise (micro tearing). This was significantly higher in the stiff group after working out, supporting the claims of higher soreness and weakness from the participants. This means flexible people have a greater capacity to perform higher intensity exercises for longer times. They are also less prone to exercise-induced muscle damage.
How do you become more flexible? In order to experience an increase you must stretch regularly for a period of 4 to 6 months. This process allows for a permanent increase in flexibility because the cells have had time to adapt. Yes, I understand everyone just rolled their eyes, but this is no different than preparing for your next race/event. 3-5 minutes total with 15-30 seconds of a mild-moderate stretch is recommended to improve flexibility at the desired areas.
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