Stretching can help improve flexibility and range of motion around your joints, which in turn reduce your risk of injury and improve performance.
Good flexibility of your body can:
1. Improve your performance in physical activities. This can range from your ability to run faster with better technique through to simply being able to get out of a chair.
- For instance, tight quadriceps (muscles at the front of your thighs) can stop you bending your knees sufficiently to get out of a chair. Getting out of a chair involves you being able to bend your knees beyond 90 degrees to give you enough leverage to stand up. So if your quadriceps muscles are tight and not allowing your knees to bend , you will find it very difficult to get out of a chair.
- Another example includes your ability to run fast. To run well you need good flexibility of your hip flexor muscles at the front of the hip. Tight hip flexors impede your ability to take your leg backwards, shorten your stride length and consequently slow you down.
2. Decrease your risk of injuries:
Muscles work best when they can respond to change quickly and efficiently. If a muscle is tight then its ability to change quickly is diminished. The muscle will not have the length that you may require to perform an activity.
- A classic example of this problem revolves around tight hamstrings. Hamstrings are the group of muscles at the back of your thighs. They help you walk and bend your knees. Hamstring muscles lengthen and stretch out when you walk. If you take longer or bigger strides when you walk or run, your hamstrings need more length to allow your leg to step forward with a bigger stride. If the hamstrings are tight and they don’t have that flexibility to lengthen as you step out, you risk tearing the muscle – something gives, and it is usually the hamstring muscle belly. This is why hamstring tears often occur with a burst of running or striding out quickly.
- However, do not think you are immune to this if you don’t plan on running. Short and tight hamstrings can lead to tendinopathy. If the muscle does not tear – then sometimes the hamstring tendon attaching to the pelvis (sit bones) gets pulled instead. Tendons do not like to be overloaded and pulled repeatedly in the wrong way. A tendon which is overloaded will get irritated, become swollen and painful. Hamstring tendinopathy presents as a very uncomfortable pain in your buttock which is painful to sit on and gets worse when you go for long walks.
Stretching all major muscle groups is an important part of a daily exercise routine as it keeps you flexible, helps you to keep doing what you want and need to do, and reduces your risk of injury.