To Stretch Or Not Stretch?

Does Stretching Help?

F lexibility is important for both athletes and for the general population. Flexibility is defined as the ability to move through a specific joint range of motion (ROM). Stretching is commonly used to help individuals achieve greater joint ROM. But how does stretching achieve these increases in ROM? Researchers have proposed two types of mechanism by which increases in flexibility can be achieved, either by stretching or through other methods. One type of mechanism involves a mechanical change in the behavior of the muscle tissue while the other type involves a change in sensation. In this article, Chris Beardsley (@SandCResearch) covers a review paper that explores the evidence for each type of theory.

What do we know about stretching?

Stretching can generally be divided into two types: static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves moving a joint to the end of its ROM and holding this stretched position for a set period of time. On the other hand, dynamic stretching involves controlled movements through the active ROM for a joint. Both static and dynamic stretching have been widely studied by researchers and therefore we know a great deal about their acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) effects.

Does stretching increase flexibility?

Perhaps the most basic question that must be asked about stretching is whether it actually increases flexibility (i.e. joint ROM). Fortunately, the literature appears to confirm that stretching does increase flexibility.

In summary, stretching does appear to increase flexibility, as measured by joint ROM, in several different muscle groups. Such increases in flexibility appear to last >1 day at least.

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