Stretching a double edged exercise?
WITHIN LIMITS Stretch before exercise
Stretching is one of the hardboiled routines of exercise. It is a double-edged thing, but that is not reflected in the enthusiastic approval that coaches bestow on it. For example, stretching just before competitive jumping can reduce jump height enough to cost a medal.
We do not think of stretching unless we think of exercise. However, according to the latest research, stretching just before exercise has few proven benefits. The heartbreak news for all those conscientiously doing stretches before exercise is that it may not prevent injuries either.
Stretching done at other times has definite benefits. It improves jumping height and running speeds. Not by much, but enough to make the difference of a medal or a podium finish.
So who needs stretching just before exercise?
One category of sportsperson who does need stretching is the flexibility-challenged athlete for whom flexibility is more important than power. For example, in certain martial arts, the beginner will find it easier to kick higher and reach further after a stretching session. However, the martial arts expert will have little need for stretching to attain full flexibility.
Stretching before exercise helps when you nurse an an old injury. Old knee injures and back injuries need a few stretches before routine exercise.
Professional dancers will benefit from pre-dance stretching. This will still result in a marginal decrease in power and speed. This negligible decrease does not matter in professional dancing and other non-competitive events. However, a discerning audience is more likely to notice lack of flexibility in a dancer, and it is here that stretching beforehand really helps.
Some athletes just cannot be weaned away from pre-event stretching. A good ten-minute stretch is part of their confidence-building routine. Take that away and you will have an athlete who will blame every failure on not stretching before the event. Sometimes confidence is more important than common sense.
Let such athletes be.
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