Stretching is the process of trying to lengthen muscle and soft tissue to increase flexibility. Flexibility refers to the maximum joint range of motion that can be achieved without injury to the joint support tissues.
To be successful in their sport, athletes need to have adequate range of motion to perform their activity, so functional range of motion is more important than flexibility.
There are many reasons given for stretching; most are myths. Stretching does not prevent injury or improve performance, but does hold importance for those already on the injured list. However, a proper warm up does prevent injury and improve performance, so time is best spent warming up the muscles rather than stretching before activity. Stretching prior to activity has been shown to decrease power, force output, jump performance, and speed. Dynamic warm up activities, utilizing the muscles to be challenged in your workout or race, will improve your performance and give you the most benefit for your time.
Here is an example of a basic dynamic warm up: start by standing on one leg and swinging the other forward and back. It is important not to force the movement. Next swing your leg side-to-side; don’t forget the other side! Move on to butt kicks, high knees, and mini squats. Finish off with gentle torso twists and arm circles.
If you have questions regarding dynamic warm ups or you would like more detailed and specific information to you, don't hesitate to ask. You can also check out the general stretching program in the handout section.