Learn How to properly apply stretching to your
Does the following describe you?
Right before working out, you start stretching before doing any kind of
warm-up activity - basically stretching 'cold'. When stretching, you
will go to the limits of your flexibility, whether it is discomforting or
not. You may also use 'bouncing' as a way to reach your flexibility
If that description in any way
characterizes you, you could be dramatically increasing your susceptibility
to injury. I used to stretch that way too and upon reflection, that is
one of the reasons why I injured myself so frequently - from tendinitis to
Studies have shown that most of your
injuries will stem from pre-workout stretching and just a post workout
stretch will be your most important injury deterrent as opposed to no
stretching at all. Sounds counter-intuitive doesn't it? Many
people do absolutely fine on no stretching at all. It is certainly
better than doing a bad pre-workout stretch routine. Studies also seem
indicate that the more flexible you are, there is a significant decrease in
the frequency of injuries.
If done properly and with care, what
benefits are to be had in stretching? Well first, lets analyze where
flexibility comes into play in triathlons. Of the three sports, the
swim and bike muscles will need extra attention. For the swim, the
powerful shoulder muscles (deltoids) need to go through a wide range of
motion while delivering a significant amount of force to propel oneself
forward. It is important to keep the shoulders in the best condition.
Although not immediately coming to mind, your ankles need flexibility too
during the swim. To reduce your drag, your ankles need to stay flat as
possible. During the bike, repeated contraction of your hamstrings
will, over time, limit the flexibility of them causing one to lose
performance from increasingly rigid hamstrings. This also manifests
itself in a tight lower back. One needs flexible quadriceps and hip
flexors to aid the range of motion during running so one does not get that
'tight, no range of motion' look which is bad running mechanics manifesting
itself in poor efficiency.
So what approach should we take to
developing a proper stretching routine? Some considerations will be to
adopt an individualistic approach. It needs to work for you.
This IS NOT a one program fits all type of thing. For people with
prior injuries such as iliotibial band injury, stretching will play an
important role in healing and recovery. What we need to do is develop
an effective way of retaining flexibility while allowing this stretching
regimen to be important in preventing future injuries instead of being a
cause of them...a fine line we must walk indeed.
Like all things in life, moderation will be
the key. We will work from the premise that a light, pre-workout
stretching routine once properly warmed up will reduce workout cramping and
will establish and retain a good range of motion for your activities.
A more intensive post-workout stretch session at least 30min after your
workout (once your muscles are relaxed, still warm and you have a normal
heart rate) will allow you to maintain your flexibility and maybe even make
some small gains over a long period of time. You may even find that
you don't even need a pre-workout stretch before certain training, or maybe,
depending on your personal physiology it may be causing injuries. That
will be up to you to determine if that's best for you. Just make sure
if your not doing a pre-workout stretch to slowly warm-up with a slow pace to your regular pace during training.
I would, at the minimum, do a post-workout stretch once you have cooled down
- that is what the literature seems to indicate as the best for you.
So here is a simple routine that you can
adapt depending on your training and how your feel. You can use this
for the pre-workout and post workout routine. At least get one of them