Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Let's answer some of the most common questions regarding stretching.
When is the best time to stretch? Always warm-up before stretching! Do 10-15 minutes of CrossFit warm-up to get the muscles warmed up and get a light sweat started first. Muscles are elastic tissue that will be more responsive to stretching after being warmed up. You are more likely to cause injury stretching a cold muscle. After the warm-up, stretch before and after your WOD. In particular, dynamic stretching can be useful before activity (arm circles, walking lunges, deep squats) not only because it will reduce muscle tightness but also because this excites the muscle a bit, getting it ready for more vigorous activity. Lastly, regular daily stretching has been found to be more beneficial than occasional stretching.
How long should I hold my stretches? After 10 seconds of stretching, the nervous system will sense the change in muscle tension and begin to relax. Only then can the true stretch begin. I recommend to hold stretches for a minimum of 30 seconds but up to one minute. This stretch should be mild in intensity such that 30 seconds is easily tolerated. If the 30 seconds is very painful, your stretch is overly aggressive and too intense.
Why should I stretch? First, stretching does help to prevent injury and keeps the muscle from becoming chronically tight. A muscle can become chronically tight if it is regularly asked to perform the same action repeatedly without being stretched. If you CrossFit often, it is likely that you have muscles prone to becoming tight from that repeated action. Secondly, stretching improves your body's potential for performance and function. A Crossfitter that is flexible will likely have better range in the gym than one that is not.