How Athletic Stretching Help Athletes

How Top Athletes Use Athletic Stretching to Enhance Performance

Most of us have been subjected to the elementary and high school gym class routine, a time where we all got to do things like play badminton, volleyball, and, for some of us, climb a hanging strand of rope. Some of us also may have participated (or still do) in organized sports.

Gym class and team practices usually start with a dedicated stretching routine. Your teachers and coaches may have glossed over the benefits of adopting a good, targeted stretching routine. Still, there is a reason that active adults encourage the habit of stretching to warm up.

Static and Dynamic Stretching Before Activity

Stretching warms up your muscles, priming them for physical activity. The act of stretching increases blood flow to your extremities and body in general. Dynamic stretching does indeed warm up your body—moving your muscles with intention physically increases muscle temperature. Static stretching is more helpful in improving flexibility. 

Research has pointed to holding any given stretch for 15 to 30 seconds for younger adults (up to 45 seconds for older adults). Generally, holding a stretch for 30 seconds allows your muscles time to relax. It is the case for static stretches that they are sometimes held for much longer than dynamic stretches—yoga often involves deeper static stretches held for longer durations (sometimes upwards of 3 minutes!).

Why Athletic Stretching is Important

Adopting an athletic stretching routine will make a positive impact on your sports performance. For starters, one of the most significant benefits of proper stretching is injury prevention. Whether you are just trying to keep baseline fitness or participate in a team or individual sport, stretching before your activity of choice will help keep you injury-free.

Stretching elongates your muscles and gets them limber/flexible. Stiff muscles can lead to a decreased range of motion, and athletic movement can be inhibited, which could contribute to an injury down the road. Flexibility is vital for athletes and people who lead active lives because it helps your body better handle muscle stress and shock and facilitates improvement in movement. According to Harvard Health, incorporating a regular stretching routine supports your joint health and even helps prevent sports injuries. 

Enhanced Sports Performance Through Targeted Stretching

Proper stretch can translate to peak performance for many athletes. Of course, there is no substitute for discipline and sticking to a training plan, but athletic stretching sets dedicated athletes up for success. Stretching your body circulates blood into your muscles—and circulation is crucial for our muscle health.

Because stretching opens the body’s range of motion, while stretching will not necessarily help you run fast or improve your skill level at certain activities, stretching the muscles you are about to engage during physical activity does set you up for more success as an athlete.

Blood flow and circulation are essential for cleaning out things like pesky lactic acid build-up, effectively boosting your recovery time so that you can build things like strength and speed while remaining agile and flexible. Good circulation also helps your muscles get the nutrients they need. So, while athletic stretching alone will not make you a top athlete, it certainly supports longevity, healthy muscles, and joints and can enable athletes to make more gains as they stay injury-free and limber for training.

Interested in incorporating stretching into your fitness routine but unsure where to start? If you are local to the greater Lancaster, PA area, Universal Athletic Club (UAC) is a full-service fitness center that offers professionally led fitness classes, including athletic stretching. All athletic stretching classes are included in a club membership. Have questions? Drop by the gym to try a class and see what UAC has to offer. Our staff is available to answer any questions you might have.