Stretching: Know When, How and Why

Stretching the leg muscles improves muscle flexibility and strength, running speed, and jumping distance, according to a study from Louisiana State University. Stretching elongates muscles and tendons. Longer tendons allow muscles to exert a greater torque on the joint to exert more power to help you lift heavier, jump higher and run faster.

However, other studies show that you should not stretch before a competition involving speed and strength. The longer the athletes stretched, the weaker they became. Prolonged stretching fatigues muscle fibers so that they contract with reduced force. Do slow deliberate stretches lasting a few seconds to several seconds, rather than rapid hard pulls on your muscles that can tear them. Stretching cold muscles can also tear them and increase risk for injury. Warm up before stretching or stretch after your workout, but realize that prolonged stretching before a competition can harm performance. Journal references; more on stretching


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