While there are a few opponents of stretching, the vast majority of people (including myself) are huge proponents of stretching, its benefits, and its immense importance. I have a very simple answer as to why stretching is so important; I have had an injury to my lower back (lumbar spine) for about two and half years and when I practice consistent stretching of the lower back and gluteal muscles, I am in less pain. When I do not stretch consistently, I can feel the difference in pain and tightness from the moment I wake up.
Does Stretching Prevent Injuries?
Even if you do not have an injury, I firmly believe that regular stretching is vital for flexibility, improved performance in and out of the gym, and can possibly prevent injury from happening. If you naturally lack flexibility, stretching regularly doesn’t necessarily mean you will ever have great flexibility, but it can definitely improve it. And if you never stretch, you can bet that your flexibility and mobility WILL decrease over time.
Should I Stretch Before Lifting/Running?
Another topic related to stretching is the appropriate amount of time to hold a stretch. I believe that if you are thoroughly warmed up, i.e., you have done some light cardio or have already worked out, you can hold certain stretches for as long as two minutes in some instances. At the same time, I do believe that if your muscles are cold, the i.e. first thing in the morning upon waking up, you should not go right into long stretches, as this can be counterproductive and actually lead to muscle pulls.
Regardless if you are doing a long stretching machine session or a quick one, anything less than 15 seconds is most likely doing nothing for you. So no matter what period of the day you are stretching, aim for 20-30 second holds at a minimum. Until next time, train hard and enjoy the journey!