When you see your physiotherapist at Bellbird Sports and Spinal, you will often be given homework. This is to aid in your recovery and help manage your presenting condition. Sometimes your body will need strengthening and other times it will need stretching. As a triathlete, I find stretching is a valuable component of my training. As you can see below, I like to include stretching into to my week as a way to balance out tight muscles and to keep myself free from injury.
A stretching program should be specific to each individual, and depends on what activities you spend most time with, and what we want to achieve by stretching.
Stretching can be used as a way of:
- Increasing flexibility
- ensuring correct muscle balance across your joints,
- warm up or cool down from sport.
When we stretch, we are targeting muscle and tendon. Muscles are made up of small fibres that join together. These fibres have an optimal length at which they function best.
There are a number of factors that can result in a muscle becoming short or tight:
- Staying in prolonged positions
- Repetitive activities such as sporting or occupational
- Stress resulting in physical tension
When you stretch out the areas of tightness, you will help to lengthen the fibres within the muscle to return it to its optimal length. The benefits of this include:
- Increased range of motion at your joints, enabling more efficient movement
- Reduced pain
- Improved posture
- Reduced risk of injury
- Making you feel good! – physically and mentally
- Research regarding stretching before and after sport is variable and inconclusive.
Personally in my triathlon training, I find that a dynamic warm up is much more beneficial than just holding a static stretch. This consists of movements that mimic the workout I am about to do, to get my muscles warmed up and ready. The static-type stretches are an option to do after a workout, but for me I prefer the use of a foam roller or spikey ball to free up those stubborn areas!
Most people don’t realise how tight they are in certain muscles, and really enjoy the feeling of freedom after they’ve had a delightful stretch session! I encourage you to come and see one of our experienced physiotherapists to get advice on the best stretches for you. Book an appointment here!
Written by Laura Anderson