For years people have been stretching their muscles in order to prepare for movement or prevent injury. But do you know what actually happens to your muscles when you stretch? This blog aims to shed some light on what actually happens when you stretch.
What is stretching
First off what actually is stretching. Stretching is a form of exercise where you aim to improve the mobility and elasticity of a muscle or group of muscles. A lot of people do it before playing a game of sport to loosen up or before they do something that requires a lot of movement.
So, what happens to your muscles when you stretch?
Nothing. That’s right! When you stretch nothing actually happens to your muscles. For a long time, everyone believed that stretching would increase your muscle length and make you more mobile, but a bunch of research has come out in the past couple of years that actually debunks this belief.
So, then what actually happens when you stretch? The research has found that stretching trains your nervous system/nerves of the muscle to tolerate a greater deal of muscle extension without shooting off pain signals. It has also shown that your muscles can’t get any longer and stretching won’t increase their length.
In basic terms that feeling you get when you stretch is actually your nerves being stretched not your muscles. What you are doing is your training your nerves to deal with lengthening better and with less pain.
Is it still worth stretching?
Righto, now that your mind has been blown the next question is, is it still worth stretching then if it’s not increasing my mobility?
The answer to that is maybe. Stretching still allows you to increase your flexibility tolerance and can give you some short-term relief from pain however it has been shown to have no benefits when it comes to injury prevention or performance and your muscles can’t get any longer. More research is needed to determine what benefits stretching has, but for the time being it is all pointing to strength and mobility/dynamic movement training as the way to go.