Why Do We Really Need to Stretch Correctly?

We've all been told that runners need to stretch. Not only is it important for injury prevention, it's also critical for performance. Some of us may not consistently stretch. Why?

We may skip stretching because we don't know how important it is in injury prevention. The more we understand, the more likely we are to incorporate stretching into our everyday routine.

Stretching is a vital part of performance enhancement (along with some simple steps). All day, our routines usually center around sitting at a desk, sitting in a car, lying on the couch — all passive activities that place your muscles in a shortened position.

Over time, that shortened position becomes the resting state of our muscles. When it's time for a run, we then ask these "shortened" muscles to lengthen. However, we neglect to even give them a "heads up." This abrupt change is extremely hard for our muscles to react to. In fact, sometimes they even fight back and you can end up with a strain.

Stretching allows for that "heads up." When we stretch, we're actually deforming the muscle tissue into a lengthened position. Over time, stretching will increase the range of motion at our joints and ultimately lead to overall improved performance.

Did you know that static stretching performed once a day can improve your performance by 2 to 5 percent?

Use these five basic stretches as a starting point to begin your stretching program today. Hold these stretches without bouncing for 30 seconds, one to two times per day.

Warm muscles stretch better than cold muscles. When you stretch a cold muscle, you risk tearing the muscle fibers that you're trying to protect. So, before you stretch, perform a short five-minute warm-up. You'll be surprised how well you feel in about six weeks.

Quads: Stand on one leg and bring the leg to be stretched behind you, holding your ankle with the same hand. Keep your thighs parallel and the involved knee pointed straight to the ground. Push your involved hipbone slightly forward, being sure to keep standing up straight. Don't lean over – this doesn't help increase the stretch!

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hip flexors: Kneel on the leg to be stretched with the other leg out in front. Slightly tuck your buttocks in and lunge forward. Try not to arch your back.

 

Hamstring: Prop the leg to be stretched on a small step, keeping your knee straight. Keep your back straight while you slightly lean your chest forward – hinging at your hips. Do not bend over — this is a less efficient way to stretch and puts stress on your back.

 


Calf:

Part 1: Place the leg to be stretched behind you. Lunge forward while keeping your heel on the ground and knee straight.

Part 2: Put a slight bend at the knee while keeping your heel on the ground.

 

If you have questions about stretching, other sports medicine topics or want to schedule a free injury evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Health Hotline™ at 414-219-7776 or 800-219-7776

Meet the Author

Marissa Strehlow, MS, LAT, is an athletic trainer at Aurora Sports Health in Mequon and is the athletic trainer for Nicolet High School.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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