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What Type of Stretching Should I do ‘Before’ Playing Sports?

You should know what type of stretching you should do both before and after playing sports or any other physical activity.  Stretching is an important part of an athletes daily exercise routine, however, it should not be the only exercise they are doing.  Most people think that when we stretch we are elongating our muscles.  This is a misconception.  Unless we are stretching for many hours every day consistently for at least 6 weeks, than we are not actually lengthening the muscles.  It is more likely that you are changing the neural tone.  You can think of neural tone as the input to the muscle from the brain to contract.  When you stretch you are temporarily changing the neural input and the muscle relaxes.  This means that rather than lengthening the muscle you are decreasing the input from the brain to contract the muscle which, in turn, leads to the muscle being more relaxed or loose.

There are two types of stretching.  They are:

  • Dynamic stretching or warm up is quick stretches with certain movements. This could be butt kicks or, frankenstein’s (when you lift the one leg as you outstretch the opposite arm- for balance purposes –  while moving forward ,  or a walking hamstring stretch.  This type of stretching is more beneficial after an activity as it warms the muscles up for performing quick explosive movements.  In most cases this type of stretching is good before an activity.
  • Static stretching is when you are standing still and stretching. This is like your typical standing quad stretch or hamstring stretch or cross body shoulder stretch.  This type of stretching is more beneficial after an activity as a cool down.  It can actually be detrimental and may predispose you to injury if done before a dynamic activity.

Stretching should be incorporated into a comprehensive strengthening routine.  If you are experiencing aches or pains, a combination of stretching plus strengthening exercises may be what it takes to get you back to an active lifestyle.

At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center our Physical Therapists and Certified Athletic Trainers can teach you proper stretches and strengthening exercises for your muscles.  CALL us TODAY at 703-450-4300.

CLICK HERE to find out how physical therapy can help you.


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