There has been a lot of debate about stretching and the role of this in injury prevention for runners.
What’s the best way to stretch and what sort of stretching should we do?
Should we even bother with stretching at all?
In particular we are looking at the role of static stretching – let’s check it out.
Static stretching is where we elongate a muscle for a period of time (anywhere between 15-45 seconds),, such as the quad stretch or a calf stretch.
Interestingly, static stretching has been shown to be associated with a reduction in muscle strength and there is some debate about whether we can actually influence the length of a muscle. Research is showing that the causes of muscle tightness is actually muscle weakness. Recent research has shown that as we increase the amount or intensity of training, this exposes muscle groups to increased load, muscle fatigue and then followed by a sensation of tightness. Therefore, the solution to our “tightness” seems to be either reduce the load or strengthen the muscle (not actually to stretch as we often want to do).
Here is a thought, based on tightness be associated with weakness, it may be better to spend less time stretching and more time strengthening. It does sound counterintuitive to think of strengthening to reduce tightness, however the scientific evidence is revealing that it does work!
The key factor now is to ensure that you are doing the RIGHT type of strengthening exercises.
In general, these are what we call slow, heavy, eccentric exercises – when a muscle is lengthening under tension (and getting really strong).
These exercises may make you feel ‘more tight’ for 24-48 hours after. However, this is not damaging and you will find your tightness will be reduced and you’ll have the added bonus of getting stronger!
Technique, load and when to add these exercises into your normal running routine is best to discuss with your Physiotherapist. Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ program, so come to see us at Performance Medicine and we can create a running, strengthening program made specifically for you, your routine and your tight muscles.
Dynamic Stretching: dynamic stretching is where we move the muscles through a controlled range of motion without holding for long periods. Think of swinging your leg in front and then behind you with your knee bent.
If you would like more information or to discuss your running style please drop in or contact me.
Find your exceptional (and get those running legs on!)