Let’s get through some common misconceptions around stretching
- Before or after exercise?
- Don’t stretch an already tight muscle?
- If there’s a ‘knot’ in a muscle are you just making it tighter!?
- How long do you stretch for!?
Stretching keeps the muscles supple and prepares the body for movement which helps with the transition from sedentary and inactivity to movement and vigorous activity.
You can stretch;
- In the morning before you start your day
- At work to release tension
- After sitting or standing for a long time
- When you feel stiff
- Before and/or after exercise
Stretching should NEVER be performed into pain. You should be holding stretches for a minimum of 20-30 seconds to make a change but never too long that you feel pain or risk injury.
WHY ARE MUSCLES “TIGHT”
- muscles that haven’t been used for long periods of time e.g; hip flexors – especially for people who have stationary/seated jobs.
- Muscles that are working too hard or for too long, therefore they don’t get a chance to relax. This can be because the muscle itself is too WEAK or it’s acting overly STRONG due to compensating for a muscle that’s too weak. If the muscle itself is too WEAK it’s working overtime to make up for its lack of strength. It could also be only strong enough to a limited range, meaning it will be doing everything in its power to not be taken past that range of motion so it doesn’t risk injury by working at its extremes where it’s weaker. If it is working too hard because its overly STRONG to compensate for another muscle then no amount of stretching will help this, the only solution is to find which muscle is under performing and strengthen it to take the load off the over activated muscle.
Stretching a TIGHT WEAK muscle isn’t doing you any favours. They need to be strengthened. Only when they build strength and activate will they loosen and let go. Two key areas in the body renowned for this are calves and hip flexors.
Stretching a TIGHT STRONG muscle won’t get a long lasting permanent change until you recognize why it’s so strong and overactive. This is often common in the hamstrings working overtime for weak inhibited glutes and the middle upper traps overworking due to weak lower traps and rhomboid muscles. So until you strengthen and activate the glutes, middle traps and rhomboids you won’t allow the hamstrings and upper traps to release.
Tight weak muscles is when stretching IS NOT recommended. As at worst it can aggravate the problem. So if you are doing sufficient stretching but aren’t getting results it’s quite possible weakness is the dysfunction not “tightness”.
In conclusion stretching can be done at all times of the day, before and after exercise. However if you’re looking to make a permanent change and see benefits it’s important to identify why you’re feeling “tight” and work towards strengthening all muscles so your body is one fluid functioning machine working together and all muscles are pulling their necessary weight.
** This is general information and not to be used in replace of a professional consult and guidance specific to your dysfunctions**