As with any intense physical discipline, stretching is a vital part of the training cycle. It is also one of the most neglected practices for beginning athletes and can come back to haunt you down the road if overlooked. Like the warm up, stretching serves two main purposes, to prevent injury and improve range of motion. There are many other benefits and intricacies of stretching, but for the purpose of getting you started quickly and without too much confusion, we will focus on the highlights. Please keep in mind that this is a quick overview of stretching and its benefits for our parkour training. There is a link to a much more in depth article at the bottom of this post.
Stretching has the potential to prevent injury in multiple facets. Firstly, static stretches after exercise supports and aids in muscle recovery. If you instantly go from an intense workout or big, powerful parkour moves to sitting on the couch for three hours, your body doesn’t have a chance to let the muscles release from their previously active state. You will notice that the body will feel tense and stiff after doing this. On the other had, if you have a nice light stretching session after your workout, you’ll notice that the soreness isn’t as intense and it disappears more quickly.
The other main way that stretching prevents injury is by preparing it for more intense exercise. Before training sessions, dynamic stretching (this will be explained later in the article) aids in warming up the body and preparing the muscles and tendons for the rigors of training. You will notice after a dynamic stretching session that your body feels less stiff and restricted in your motion.
Range of Motion
When it comes to range of motion, stretching for parkour can benefit certain parkour moves. This is a difficult topic because everyone is naturally at a different level of flexibility and some people’s bodies are able to improve quickly, while others aren’t. I personally am not flexible and have to work at it constantly to see minor improvements. Even though, I have noticed the benefits of that tiny bit of extra flexibility and range of motion in my training.
Range of motion is the amount of free movement in your joints. This is directly related to flexibility, and generally the more range of motion you have, the more freely you can move. You know those big bodybuilding guys that can’t scratch their back? They have very poor range of motion while on the other hand, contortionists have incredible, and perhaps too much, range of motion. We want to improve our range of motion to improve our parkour and prevent injury.
When to Stretch
It is widely agreed that stretching improves athletic performance and that when you stretch significantly impacts its effectiveness. Generally, stretching is more effective when the muscles are warm and you will notice when you are stiff and sore, you are less flexible. There are two major types of stretching that we will cover and use in our parkour practice, static and dynamic stretches.
A static stretch is the type of stretching that you are most likely to be familiar with. This type of stretching is performed when the body is at rest while dynamic stretching using momentum to stretch the muscles while in motion. For example, sitting on the ground and reaching for your toes is static stretching while standing and trying to kick something over your head would be a dynamic stretch because you are using the momentum of your leg to swing it up past where you would normally be able to lift it.
In our parkour training, we will use both static and dynamic stretches for different purposes. We will use dynamic stretching during our warm up to help prepare our bodies and increase our range of motion. We will also employ static stretching after training sessions to cool the body down, increase flexibility and prevent injury.
For a much more in depth and analytical look at stretching for parkour, check out this resource: MUSE’s stretching article