Stretching is so often something people neglect to do at the end of a training session because they are too tired to do anything else. Or when they do, they just rush through each stretch and so don't get the full benefit of each one.
We stretch to improve our flexibility. Flexibility is the range of motion that is available to a joint or joints. Flexibility is important because:
- It improves muscle balance around a joint, thus improving posture
- It reduces the chance of injury when playing a sport or in every day activities
- It increases the blood and nutrient supply to muscles and cartilage, thereby also reducing muscle soreness after training.
Stretching should not be done as a warm-up to an activity as you could injure your muscles if stretching them when they are cold. At least 3 to 5 minutes of cardiovascular training is recommended to warm up the muscles sufficiently. Each major muscle group should be stretched slowly and with control, holding each stretch for 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 60 seconds. Hold each stretch at the point of mild tension or tightness, not to the point of pain.
It is important to stretch after doing any physical activity. When muscles perform any exercise, they tighten and shorten as a result. Stretching them out helps to restore and improve their length. When doing strength training, you could stretch each muscle group directly after performing each set.