Why stretching is important
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
When tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched. Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury.
Harvard Health Publishing
Time and Timing
Now I can't tell you that I've found evidence for the length of time you need to stretch every muscle, however, I did come across a study on stretching the hamstrings. The study on static stretches suggests that a duration of 30 seconds is an effective time of stretching for enhancing the flexibility of the hamstring muscles.
Something I wasn't surprised to find was the effect passive stretching has on a person which can lead to injuries if performed at the wrong time. From experience, I have found that if I do this type of stretch just before a workout, I feel loose and weaker than usual. This was also found during a study which saw that prolonged stretching of a single muscle decreases voluntary strength for up to 1 hr after the stretch. So I would recommend doing your passive stretches sometime before the 1 hr mark, and perhaps you can do some warm down stretches after a workout.
Add dynamic stretches to your warm up
The difference between passive stretching and dynamic stretching is that passive stretching is when you hold a position for a set amount of time, whereas dynamic stretches involves you moving constantly.
Dynamic stretches will loosen your joints to improve your range of motion and improve blood flow to tissues throughout your body. This helps your cells get the oxygen and energy they need before your workouts.
Examples of dynamic stretches include high knees, side to side lunges, arm swings and standing toe touch. Add a stretch routine just after a 5-10 minute light warm up and your body would be ready to take on a rigorous session.
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