* Note: Even in modern exercise-science, the shift is away from doing prolonged stretching pre-exercise.
Research on injury-prevention (the main reasoning behind stretching), suggests stretching without first warming the body tissues up/increasing circulation etc is negligible at best. Generally the best warm-up consists of a very gradually increase in intensity of the activity you are undertaking, e.g. if jogging – start off walking, gradually increase speed over 4-5 minutes and then begin jogging etc.
* If you want to stretch beforehand (which is still good, especially if you will be engaging specific muscles or doing high-intensity movements), it is best to do them after this warm-up stage.
2. Don’t Overstretch – Less is More:
The biggest mistake people make re; stretching is ‘stretching too hard’. By stretching a muscle beyond it’s ‘comfortable’ limit, it actually resists…it contracts as a safety mechanism against injuring itself. The ideal way to stretch is to simply take the muscle to its ‘comfortable limit’ – we love ‘No Pain No Gain’ but remember that pain is nature’s feedback that something is Wrong! – then stretch a ‘little’ further until the first sense of ‘contraction’ is felt. Hold the stretch there (while doing Point 3. below) for as long as is comfortable or until the muscle relaxes and ‘naturally’ increases its range.
3. Stretching should be ‘Mind’ & Body – Use the Power of your Attention & Breathing:
By puttting your mind’s attention on the muscle(s) you are stretching, you can significantly improve your flexibility. By really ‘feeling’ the stretch and focusing your attention on the ‘tight’ spots, you will literally dissolve the tension that is within the muscles. And don’t forget to BREATHE – Breathe slowly & deeply while stretching to help keep your whole body more relaxed – combined with your attention, you will dissolve any tension creating tightness and naturally & spontaneously your muscles/joints will become more supple & free.