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Does stretching reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness?

Before answering this question, it is important to describe two types of stretching.

  • Static stretching : These are positions maintained for a fixed period of time. They are the most used in sports practice. For example, pull the ankle to the buttocks while standing on one leg to stretch the quadriceps (muscle in front of the thigh).
  • Dynamic stretching : These are movements that involve a contraction and relaxation of the same muscle. For example, bring the heel to the buttocks repeatedly to activate and stretch the quadriceps.

A full workout includes 3 phases :

  1. Warm-up (mild to moderate intensity)
  2. Training (medium to high intensity)
  3. Cool down (very low intensity)

Unless there is a specific need for a large range of motion during the training of a sport, such as gymnastics that requires great flexibility in the leg muscles, kinesiologists will incorporate static stretching in the cool down phase and integrate dynamic stretching in the warm-up phase. This is the way to prevent the risk of injury. A body needs good preparation before any kind of effort, otherwise injuries will occur due to a lack of adaptation. For example, muscle breakdown, sprained ankle, nerve entrapment, inflammation of a tendon, any syndrome, etc.

However, it is important to understand that even if we follow this procedure, we are not immune to aches (muscle pain that occurs 24 to 48 hours after a workout). If a muscle has been exposed to a repetitive motion requiring intense and sustained effort during a weight training session or running, for example, aches will follow even if the stretches were done after training. Be aware that stretching has no effect on pain relief due to stiffness. So the best medicine is to move, drink water and eat well so that the muscle fibers repair quickly.

In summary, yes stretching is recommended and has an important role in injury prevention if it is specific to training and if it is done the right way, at the right time. Do not do them in the idea of being less “in pain” the day after a training. Do it in order to maintain a good mobility of your joints and in order to relax.

Joanie Nadeau-Leblanc

Kinesiologist

20 March 2018 | Back to news page Back