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Stretching_between myth and reality

Many athletes stretch before, during or even after their sports session. A habit which is enormously criticized, both by the medical profession and by athletes themselves. These manipulations would be responsible in particular for making the muscles fall asleep – which would push some athletes to ban them completely.

By definition, stretching are specific exercises aimed at improving mobility through progressive lengthening of the muscle. They then improve joint range of motion within the limits of the muscle's ability to elongate. 1

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Synergistically effective in joint inflammation, mobility and flexibility problems / Avoids morning stiffness

Although there are a multitude of different stretching exercises, it is possible to distinguish two groups. On the one hand, so-called “passive” stretching, during which we force the muscle to stretch it. The goal will be to regain physiological muscle length. We are therefore gaining length, relaxing and recovering. On the other side, we find “active” stretching or also called ballistic stretching. In this specific case, these are sequences of movements carried out dynamically. There, we look for the amplitude gain. 1

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Helps with muscle development / prevents muscle catabolism / helps with recovery

Stretching: when and how?

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to stretch at any time as long as you respect certain rules.

Before or during a session, active exercises are preferred. They will stretch the muscle during a movement and wake it up. We have both a blood supply and work that takes place at the level of the nerve endings. Respecting an average of 10 to 15 seconds maximum per manipulation seems reasonable.

Regarding passive stretching, it is essential to do them away from the sports session – until the muscles have time to cool down. We recommend waiting until you get home, take a shower and snack on something. Then, you will be able to focus on each muscle for at least 30 seconds each. These exercises will help to avoid stiffness but also to return more easily to your baseline state and muscle relaxation.

The TRUE/FALSE on stretching with Vincent Jacquet, sports physiotherapist

Stretching makes you more flexible. True and false

We all have a genetic heritage that makes us stiff. Stretching your muscles helps you fight against our genes. But, as soon as we stop, we return to our base state. Stretching only increases flexibility if it is done regularly and for a long time.

Stretching reduces muscle aches. FAKE

Aches and pains occur following significant effort. When you stretch, it is possible to feel a certain indolence. But the stiffness does not decrease thanks to this: it needs 48 hours for the recovery process to take place.

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Reduces muscle fatigue and relieves cramps


Stretching helps you recover better. TRUE

One of the primary objectives of stretching is recovery and relaxation. Working your muscles in this way allows you to control your muscle tone. Here again, it is important to respect certain rules. Avoid any manipulation directly after exercise and control your breathing when performing the exercises. Finally, always stretch gradually.

Thanks to Vincent Jacquet, sports physiotherapist at Pôle Kiné Chenel , in Franconville.

1 (Stretching: interests and limits in the context of competitive and leisure skiing | Nicolas Coumly | Published by the Department Sportsman and Scientist of the FFS | MAY 2008)