Some say stretching is the clearest path to overall health; others say it should never be done, and those who do agree on its benefits often disagree on the when and how.
Lee Boyce, a sports performance trainer, says that stretching, when applied correctly, is beneficial for any active person. Whether you’re at Easton for general fitness, boot camp, BJJ or Muay Thai, stretching should take place both before and after a workout, Boyce advises.
“Perform dynamic stretches before your workout,” says Boyce, “so that mobility is the focal point, and stick with static stretching — that’s holding a stretch in one fixed position for a length of time — after your workouts.”
The combination of the two helps open up tight muscles, increase range of motion and also lowers the risk of injury. Some research suggests that static stretching temporarily weakens the muscles because it dulls the nervous system. Though this may be true, says Boyce, the key word is temporarily.
“The muscles will only need a few minutes to regain their full potential strength,” he says, “and in the long haul, that’s better than risking an injury.”
Muscles that tend to need extra attention are the hip flexors, quadriceps, chest and shoulders. “Since life happens in front of us (working, driving, carrying things, moving forward), those muscles tend to get the tightest,” Boyce explains.
But some of us aren’t naturally flexible to begin with, and it seems that no amount of stretching helps.
He also notes, “People who are quite tight should take a look at their diet. High levels of calcium can affect muscles’ levels of contraction. Magnesium, potassium and highly acidic foods can help counter that.” Stretching has proven benefits. It’s just a matter of applying it correctly, and that, says Boyce, is what’s most important.
For more information regarding stretching before and after exercise please ask you coaches. A lot of your coaches have been in the fitness and martial arts world for awhile. Make sure you pick their brains next time you see them on the mat.