By: Gavin Hemmerlein
Stretching (Static) is a fantastic tool for performance. It can relax or elongate a tightened muscle, increase Range Of Motion (ROM) of a joint, and, as a benefit of relieving tightened muscles, increase the ability to perform a movement through the right ROM by decreasing the strain the tightened muscles place on the movement throughout the kinetic chain (basically movement of the body through the desired ROM). These are all fantastic benefits!
I feel like I also need to establish what stretching does NOT do. Stretching does not prevent injury pre-exercise. Increased bloodflow through the area through dynamic exercise does this. Stretching after an exercise will NOT get rid of soreness or DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Nothing has been proven to nix DOMS, but the likely best relief is hydration, light exercise, and “rest” (lack of over-exertion). Try slowly increasing the frequency of your workouts and hopefully your bod will adapt to a decrease in recovery time. DO NOT DO THIS QUICKLY. This should be done throughout weeks, not jumping from one workout a week to hitting the same muscle 3 times a week. You will likely injure yourself that way and put into recovery for many weeks as opposed to getting where you want the right way.
Static Stretching should be performed as many days out of the week as possible; ideally 7. The exercise is low impact and will not seriously hurt you. A great way to do this is to try yoga. Most of the yoga positions provides two things; isometric pressure on the muscles “target” and a stretch to the “antagonistic” muscles. This is why so many yoga performers are so flexible.
Another great thing to look into is mobility work. For as much crap as they receive (justifiable or not) Crossfitters do a FANTASTIC job of working on mobility. Mobility in its simplest form is the ability to increase ROM for the kinetic chain. This can be done through foam rolling (SMR; which I previously discussed and support whole heartedly) and stretching. Kelly Starrett is a fantastic resource for anybody interested in looking at information on this.
Don’t neglect this necessary part of training. You will not be disappointed with the results!