I recently read this article on tips for proper stretching from WebMD.
While it is a fairly good article, I do disagree with a few points which can be very important for the individual.
1. The article pointed out that each person needs a certain amount of flexibility depending on their lifestyle. This can be true but their other point was “if you have a tight muscle…stretch it.” Unfortunately it is never that simple. Often muscles tighten up/ “spasm” secondary to underlying conditions (ie. disease, acute/chronic trauma). It is one of our body’s number one ways to protect itself. Stretching a muscle without knowing why it is tight may be futile. If you do not fix the underlying problem, the muscle will return to it’s tighten state and/or if you continue to stretch it anyway it can lead to further injury & inflammation. Seeing a health care provider will help you decide if stretching that particular muscle is appropriate. If not, there are plenty of wonderful activities out there to address the muscle tissue and optimize flexibility without aggressive stretching. Therapeutic-based yoga as well as strain-counter-strain stretching are potential alternatives to stretching.
2. They also pointed out that static stretching is not a good idea to incorporate into your warm-up. This is only partially true. Yes, you should not stretch cold muscles. A proper warm-up including an aerobic activity (ie. jogging) or an “active” warm-up as pointed out are needed “pre” static stretching. But to NOT perform any static stretches at all I am not sure I buy. There has been some great research over the years on stretching as part of warm-up and decreasing risk of injuries. WHEN you do the static stretching during warm-up is key. Also, we are seeing some new research on the above mentioned alternative stretches (ie. yoga and strain-counter-strain stretching) and their effects on decreasing risk of injury and optimizing workout performance.
In any case, a proper warm-up is necessary in any workout. Speaking to a heath care provider (as was their last point) is key to keeping the novice safe and injury free during a workout!!