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Why is stretching important?

Stretching is the most under-rated element of optimum function and performance.

There are many elements of an exercise program, however, the most overlooked component is usually the stretching or flexibility portion of a routine.

  • Stretching improves flexibility allowing for restoration of muscle length and increases in range of motion.
  • Stretching can help to alleviate joint and muscle pain as well as improve strength, power, performance and overall function by allowing the body to maximally activate muscles from their optimal length.

Think of a rubber band being stretched back. The more you can stretch it, the more potential it has for power. The body's muscles function in much the same manner. There are various types of stretching, and when you are stretching (pre-, post- or independent of exercise) should dictate the type of stretching you do.

  • Pre-Exercise: Perform Dynamic Stretches 
  • Post-Exercise: Perform Static Stretches
Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life
Physiology Specialist

Stretching, as you probably already know, can help improve flexibility. When we talk about flexibility, we’re referring to the muscles’ and joints’ ability to give and move more freely. Although there’s some debate as to what stretching can or can’t do—Can it prevent soreness? Protect against injury?—I think it can help prevent stiffness that can make going about your day-to-day life uncomfortable. Plus, it feels really good to take a few moments to renew yourself and reflect on a workout session, and stretching is the perfect way to do that.

Stretching causes your muscle to increase in elasticity and slightly warms the tissue. These changes may lower your chances of straining or pulling a muscle and will increase your overall flexibility. Over time, regular stretching can decrease your chances of developing a chronic injury due to poor form and posture.

This answer provided for NATA by the Washington State University Athletic Training Education Program.

Continue Learning about Flexibility Training

To What Degree Do I Need to Exercise to Improve My Health?
To What Degree Do I Need to Exercise to Improve My Health?
Are There Specific Stretches I Can Do to Prevent Hip Pain From Occurring?
Are There Specific Stretches I Can Do to Prevent Hip Pain From Occurring?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.