I’m a big fan of stretching every day and pre and post exercises. There are a couple of aspects to stretching that is important to remember. I believe that a stretch should be done over a period of minutes and do not need to be intense to be effective. Stretching to me is similar to stretching leather. If you stretch it intensely for a short period of time, the leather will bounce back to it’s original length. When you are stretching, you are of course mechanically stretching the tissue but there is another important thing that you are doing as well. In every muscle cell and joint, there are receptors that monitor stretch and position and send that information back to the brain. The more time that you stretch, the more information is sent to the brain relaying information that the muscle in that stretched position is actually okay and there is no need for any protective spasm if the muscle is put in that position again during activity. Spasm can be annoying and unnecessary spasm can be reduced with a good long stretch and is gentle and not painful. Half of the intensity for twice as long is a good rule of thumb that I like during training.
Speaking of training, when you stretch after an intense workout, it is doubly important to keep the stretch long and gentle. A good warm up and cool down is very important as well. The muscles are, for lack of a better analogy, hung over. They are tired and dehydrated. It’s like partying with your friend and when he’s sleeping and hungover, grabbing him and yanking him out of bed. Do you think he might be a bit annoyed? You need to ease him out of bed just like you need to ease your muscles while stretching them after a workout.
Be nice to your muscles. After a work out simply squeezing your muscles repeated is good as well as it sends lots of blood there to pick up metabolic waste to be eliminated from your body which will help to reduce pain and fatigue and also help to repair any muscle tissue that may be damaged during the workout.