The basics of stretching
So, you’re heading out for a run or walk, and like many others who think they are helping to prevent an injury from happening, you decide to get a few stretches in before starting out. The first thing you probably do is grab a foot, pull it up to your buttocks, and stand there for a few seconds in the stork position. Right? In the past, this was considered a good stretch, but times have changed.
Now we know that this stretch, known as a static stretch, relaxes and loosens the joint, in effect, making it susceptible to an injury. You see, joints need to be somewhat tight to perform their best and relaxing them is contrary to this favorable condition.
Now would be a good time to take a brief look at some of the stretches available to the athlete and the recreational trainee. Before doing so, let us look at the two main reasons to be stretching in the first place.
A normal range of motion (ROM) in each joint makes our lives easier to live. A good ROM allows us to bend, twist, stand and walk without feeling as though the joint is coming apart due to excessive muscular tension pulling on each side of it.
The definition of range of motion, as used here, is this: the range of motion is the degree of movement through which a joint is moved voluntarily in both extension and flexion, i.e., straightening and bending. It should be noted that the range of motion is slightly but technically different from flexibility.
As commonly used flexibility means being able to move a limb without being hampered by tight muscles on either side of the joint. However, true flexibility, by definition, refers to the extreme ultimate limit of joint movement, achieved momentarily using a partner or some other apparatus.
The basic stretches are those we have all seen in the gym or on the track. Some are more productive than others are, so the best advice in this situation is to try each one and see which ones suit you the best. We will start with the most common of them all, the static stretch.