Stretching for Flexibility and Prevention of Injury

by Greg Landry, M.S.

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Okay, okay, I know this is a pretty dull subject and one that nobody likes to think about, but stretching is important. Stretching on a regular basis enables you to be more flexible and greatly decreases your chances of sustaining a muscle / joint injury or developing low-back pain. If you enjoy exercise, there's nothing worse than being sidelined with an injury.

For these reasons alone, it's worth spending a few minutes stretching on a regular basis. There are several sites online where you can find details on specific stretching exercises, so we won't get into that here. However, I would like to discuss two factors that are very important and often misunderstood.

1. Never stretch a cold muscle before exercise. I like to use the analogy of a rubber band that's been in the freezer. Your muscle, like that rubber band, will tend to tear if stretched when it's cold. However, when they are warm and supple, they stretch much more easily and are much less likely to tear.

When you stretch cold muscles, you are much more likely to cause muscle strains and other injuries. Always do your stretching after your aerobic exercise session or after you have been exercising for at least ten minutes to give your muscles time to warm up and become more supple. Never stretch before you exercise. You are much more likely to injure yourself when you do.

Stretching is not a "warm-up" for your aerobic exercise. Your warm-up should be a very low intensity version of the exercise that you're doing. Then, you stretch your muscles after they are warm.

2. Never "bounce" while stretching. This is another way to increase your chances of developing an injury. Your stretching should be a very slow, fluid movement to gradually stretch the muscle until you're feeling a slight stretch. Then, hold it there for about fifteen seconds and just allow the muscle to gently stretch. no bouncy, jerky movements.

If you stretch on a regular basis, you'll reverse the natural loss in flexibility that occurs over time and you'll also be much less prone to nagging, and sometimes serious injuries, including low-back injuries.

Author and exercise physiologist, Greg Landry, M.S., publishes a FREE email newsletter, "Fitness, Health, & Weight Loss". To start your free subscription, send any email message, or visit For more information on weight training, email

copyright 2000 by Greg Landry, M.S.

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