A lot of controversy surrounds this subject, so let's put a few of the myths regarding pre and post exercise stretching to bed. Today we will start with pre exercise.
Personally I would not undertake any form of aggressive exercise or sport without a gentle pulse raising activity i.e jog, cycle, for five minutes followed by some stretching exercises. The stretches involved would include a mixture of static and dynamic exercises aiming to take the muscle NO FURTHER than what you would deem 'normal range' for you. The objective is to simply get the muscle used to moving through it's range and this can be done statically, whereby the end of the muscle flexibility is held for up to 10 seconds or dynamically, where it is slowly and repeatedly moved into it's end of range. That doesn't mean aggressive bouncing!!
It is good practice to get into the habit of stretching the whole body rather than just the muscles you think are involved in your chosen activity. I have lost count of the clients I have seen who only stretch their quadriceps, calves and hamstrings prior to running. Yes these are the primary muscles that will move your leg forward and back but there are quite a few more involved in fixating and stabilising the body during the running phase.
So in summary:
If you want to reduce your chance of over stretching/straining your muscles during exercise ensure your stretch before hand. It only takes a few minutes!!
Check out tomorrows tweet for my views on post exercise stretching. You can also get other tips on nutrition and health via my blog: thesportsspecialist.blogspot.com