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Stretching is an essential part of football and a topic widely debated by footballers.
When it comes to stretching, everyone has their own habits and beliefs! As a result, many popular misconceptions have arisen, which we'll now attempt to clear up by focusing on one question: WHEN should you stretch? In other words what's the best time to stretch when we're playing football, particularly during training sessions?
To keep things clear and simple, we'll look at two types of stretching: passive and active. What's the difference between the two? When and how should you stretch?
Passive stretching should only be done at the end of training sessions. The aim of passive stretching is to relax the muscle and help it recover.
Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn't carry out passive stretches during training. This is even discouraged as it increases the risk of tears and muscle injury. So ultimately it does more harm than good.
Passive stretching is very much a post-training routine.
How to do a passive stretch? You should hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. You're really looking to relax the muscle in order to put light tension back into it. You should definitely avoid feeling any pain as this is an inefficient way to stretch that increases the risk of muscle injury.
Ideally you want to stretch the muscle when it's cold rather than when it's hot. This is a new technique that has been approved by many high-level sports men and women. You need to wait until the muscle has cooled down before stretching, normally around 1-1.5 hours.
Active stretches should be carried out once you're well warmed up.
Contract the muscle for 5-6 seconds then immediately carry out an active exercise. For example, stretch the quads for around 5 seconds then do some high knee running; stretch the hamstring then do some heel flicks, and so on.
Like passive stretching, active stretching is a new technique that has proven to be efficient before training, during training and just after the warm-up.
Active stretching is done after exertion, involving very short stretches that put tension back into the muscle in order to keep it warm, while passive stretching is for cooling down and relaxing the muscle.