Have you done your cool down? You probably follow these words by cycling through a range of static stretching. post exercise stretching has been used for years as a form of recovery and these stretches appear to improve recovery. The two factors below seem to be the main reason for stretching.

  • Reducing muscle soreness
  • Regaining and enhancing flexibility

Ask most personal trainers why stretching after exercise is good for you. The answer will probably be “it gets more blood to your muscles and makes them more flexible”. While there is truth in this statement, is it the key to recovery?


What is Static Stretching?

Generally speaking static stretching is classified and prescribed as holding the muscle in an elongated state. While the time domain may vary, 30-60 seconds tends to be the norm.


Does It Actually Increase Blood Flow?

During the actual stretch itself, blood flow (along with several other factors) is actually reduced. However, immediately after releasing the stretch, blood flow appears to significantly increase beyond pre stretching levels. This is what is commonly referred to when talking about “flushing the muscles with fresh blood”.


Improving Flexibility

Simply put, static stretching may well increase flexibility or range of motion. To be honest, we’re not entirely sure why but that’s for the scientist to worry about. The idea is, static stretching may decrease neural excitability and alter the mechanical structures of the muscle-tendon unit.

Basically, the answer is yes, it can improve flexibility.


Static Stretching May Have More to Do with Nerves

We can split the Autonomic Nervous System in two.

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight)
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest)

We’re going to focus on the PSNS. Relaxation of this system is an important factor in recovery and static stretching has been shown to promote exactly this. Let’s leave it there before confusing ourselves!


So, Is Static Stretching the Key To Recovery?

Whether it is the key is still open for debate. However, we can take away the following points from what we currently know (the first may uprise you!).

  • Static stretching appears to have a little effect on reducing muscle soreness!
  • PSNS activity is increased, which may improve relaxation.
  • Whilst it does improve flexibility this may not have any direct effect on recovery.
  • Initially stretching reduces blood flow but is significantly increased after.

To finish, I can leave with the ever annoying Strength & Conditioning coaches answer, “it depends”. You are the athlete, we cannot tell you how you are feeling! If you do no stretching at all, give it a go. You may find that it drastically improves your day to day performance. If you don’t try it you’ll never no.

If you’re not confident in what or how to stretch, why not send us a message and see if we can help? We are more than happy to help and as a Leading Personal Trainer in Richmond, London, I believe the more people know the better!