For my entire life, I have been told to warm up before sport. To stretch. It makes sense, right? We don’t want to participate in sport or physical activity with cold, tight and stiff muscles, so we should lengthen them by stretching them. It sure feels good to have a good stretch, and you definitely feel more limber afterwards, so it must be good for you… right? Hmm, it’s maybe not so simple.
Static stretching, like the classic calf stretch against the wall, feels good and has shown so be beneficial in making tendons more pliable, allowing them to take more load before they become over-stressed and sustain an injury. It has also been suggested that static stretching can reduce acute soft-tissue injuries, though it has no short-term affect on chronic injury prevention. But static stretching has also been shown to reduce muscle strength for a time after you finish stretching, which may have an impact on performance, and could even play a role in increasing the risk of injury. It’s all a bit murky, isn’t it?
WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO?
There are alternatives to static stretching, like foam rolling, or a dynamic warm-up routine. Foam rolling is a form of self-massage and dynamic warm-ups include functional, whole body movements, aiming to increase blood flow and body temperature, improve nerve impulse transition rates, as well as by initiating some more complicated processes such as glycolosis, glycogenolysis, and post-activation potentiation… lets just say that these things are good, and you want them happening to get your body moving and performing well!
Dynamic warm-ups have been shown to improve short-term performance compared with a static stretching routine or no warm-up, and there is evidence to show that sports-specific active warm-ups can reduce the occurrence of injury.
SO, WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
Static stretching, followed by a moderate-intensity sports-specific active warm-up seems to be the best way to go to maximise your performance, while helping to prevent acute injury. For your chronic injuries, pre-sport stretching won’t help as much, and specific exercises relating to muscle imbalance are more likely to do the trick. See your physiotherapist for an idea of what exercises will be right for you. After sport, foam rolling or some static stretching is the way to go.
HOW DO I APPLY IT?
Now this is where it gets tricky – k-tape can be used in a variety of ways, in lots of different positions, and with different tension applied to the tape. Even the direction of tape application can alter the effect the tape can have. Your best bet is to chat to your LifeForce physiotherapist who can show you how to apply it, and give you advice on which type of taping is going to be most beneficial for you.