Should You Stretch After You Pull A Muscle?

Today’s Thursday Throwback is an appropriate follow-up to last week’s post on the relationship between flexibility and muscle injury risk. If you missed that, you can check it out here: Does Flexibility INCREASE your risk of injury?

This is another short, but important read, as it touches on an idea that I think every youth athlete I’ve ever worked with has been taught incorrectly. Enjoy the post, and please pass it along to any friends or family you think would benefit from reading it!

Should You Stretch After You Pull A Muscle?

Think about the times in your life that you’ve “tweaked” a muscle or slightly strained/pulled it.

What was the FIRST thing you did on your own or were told to do?

If you’re like most people, you immediately stretched the muscle.


This isn’t always the answer

The very first thing I tell my athletes if they tweak a muscle is NOT to stretch it!

A muscle strain can range from a slight over-stretch to a complete tear. Assuming the muscle isn’t COMPLETELY torn, it’s likely that there is some micro-damage to the muscle and that the muscle feels tight because it’s guarding against further injury.

This means that most people are attempting to stretch an over-stretched muscle AGAINST the muscles’ contraction.

Not only is this not an effective way to speed up your healing, but it’s probably making your injury worse!

Think about your muscle as a rubber band. Now imagine cutting a small slit in the rubber band with a razorblade.

If you stretch that rubber band now, what’s going to happen?

The small slit is going to expand, getting longer and wider.

Does making a slight tear in your muscle longer and wider seem like a smart recovery strategy?

If you tweak a muscle, DO NOT stretch it. You can ice it if you want (although I’m not convinced that ice does anything either). If you’re going to stretch anything, stretch the muscles that OPPOSE the injured muscle.

Many muscles are overworked or strained because of a relative stiffness imbalance with their antagonists, so stretching the opposing muscle can help bring you back into balance.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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