Stretching before sports and exercise is one of those things which is sorely underestimated in terms of importance and which has often dire results when ignored.
Stretching before exercise is a highly important way to avoid injury and it achieves this by helping to increase the elasticity of the muscle fibers and ligaments.
How Stretching and Warming Up Prevent Injury
Basically when we exercise we are always going to cause some microtears in the muscles and this is a completely normal and expected result. This is in fact necessary in order for muscle growth to occur – and it is when the body repairs these tears using the amino acids that come from the protein in your diet that it manages to improve the thickness and the strength of those fibers.
Unfortunately though a sudden movement or too much strain can have a negative result, and this is to cause too many of the muscle fibers to tear to the point where it can result in severe pain and the muscle going out of action. This is in fact what we call a pulled muscle. Worse, if you should move too suddenly without the proper preparation this can also cause the ligaments and other connective tissue to tear resulting in what we know as a sprain which leaves the limb too weak and too uncoordinated to be used properly.
Stretching and warming up helps to avoid this problem significantly by gradually increasing the elasticity of the muscle fibers and the connective tissues allowing them to become more flexible and to move more easily without tearing. This is actually very important, and if you ignore this preparation then you will greatly increase your chances of pulling a muscle or causing other damage to the limbs.
But that is not the only benefit of stretching and warming up. While many people think of it as purely a way to avoid injury, it is actually important to bear in mind that you can also use stretching and warming up in order to improve circulation to the muscles. This then will help to encourage your body to deliver your muscles with the all important nutrients and vitamins they need, as well as with ATP (energy) in order to improve function. In short by doing a brief warm up you can ensure that your muscles are more energetic and more ‘ready to go’ when you begin.
Further, stretching will also help to improve your flexibility and this will help you to improve your performance in a range of sports and exercises. In most sports games increasing your reach is very important and it’s highly useful that you can do this with stretching and increased flexibility. However at the same time you will find that you improve your training this way too – as by increasing flexibility you increase the range of motion through which you can train muscles resulting in a more complete growth in muscle size.
How to Warm Up and Stretch
Warming up is a simple matter of getting your blood flowing around your body without exerting yourself too much. A light jog here can work great, as can gently bouncing up and down or even doing some shadow boxing.
For stretching it’s possible to find lots of exercises online, but it’s important to ensure that these are all stretches that involve gradually increasing your reach – rather than ‘bobbing up and down’ into the movement as some people recommend which can actually result in injury and damage themselves. Stretching should be a slow and gradual process.
Meanwhile make sure that you stretch every muscle group and don’t leave any out which can further result in injury. That means you need to include twisting and back exercises – even if there is no use for the back in your chosen activity or sport.
Chad Moreau is very good at giving online hockey training programs on his blog. He is also involved with one of the sports club and likes to share his training skills with fellow members.