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The secrets of stretching
Craig Smith
Craig Smith
Nottinghamshire CCC physiotherapist

Basketball legend Michael Jordan said one of the main reasons why he played in the NBA well into his late 30s was because of all the stretching he did as part of his fitness routine.

Michael Jordan in action for the Chicago Bulls
'Air' Jordan: Flexible muscles

And if it's good enough for 'Air' Jordan, then it must be good enough for any sports star, professional or amateur.

Stretching should be a vital part of everyone's fitness plans.

It makes you supple, flexible and can even improve your performance, making you faster, stronger and more agile.

Stretching also improves blood flow to the tissues, as well as helping to prevent injury.

For example, all those lunges and high ball controls that professional footballers do would damage their muscles if they weren't so supple and flexible.

Fast bowlers would strain their leg muscles when lunging forward to deliver the ball as too would tennis players, sliding along the clay courts at the French Open.


Your muscles have a certain length to which they stretch and contract when exercising.

Ronaldo holds Roberto Carlos in a stretch
Roberto Carlos feels the benefits of a good stretch

This length is controlled by the muscle's own suppleness, as well the sheaths of tissue that surround the muscles and keep them in place.

The muscle's active stretching length can be improved by doing stretching exercises, which in turn will benefit your performance on the field.

So not only is stretching a good way of warming up before any physical activity, it's also a great way to improve your overall suppleness and flexibility.

Stretching is also important when you're coming back from a muscle injury.

An injured muscle will heal with a bruise that forms a scar, which is slowly converted back into muscle tissue.

The injury will feel stiff and sore early on, but will become less painful as the muscle heals.

The human body has over 650 muscles
Muscles have two jobs - to contract (shorten) when being used and expand when resting

Because it helps to improve blood flow to the muscles, stretching an injured muscle will speed up the recovery by improving blood flow to the area.

Good blood flow is important for an injured muscle as the healing tissues need oxygen to get better.

And the more oxygen brought to the tissues by the extra flow of blood, the faster you'll be back in action.

However, be careful not to stretch too soon after an injury as this could actually make it worse rather than improve it.

Consult your physio for treatment and guidance to work out an effective stretching and rehabilitation program.

So when your coach calls stretch time during your warm-ups or warm-downs, be sure to remember that you're stretching your way to a healthier, more supple and better performance level.


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