For the athlete, improved flexibility means improved performance. Flexibility requires a good range of motion in the joint, which in turn depends on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that connect to each joint. Effective stretches can loosen muscles and improve flexibility, but all stretches must be performed safely to avoid injury.
First, athletes should warm up with simple aerobic activity before beginning to stretch. Warm muscles mean that there is adequate blood flow to the area, which in turn helps to prevent injury. Dynamic stretches consisting of slow and controlled movements tend to be safer before a workout, while static stretches are most effective after exercise.
Static stretches involve extending a muscle to its farthest limit and holding that position for approximately 10 to 30 seconds. Though a popular warm-up technique, this can actually reduce the performance of that muscle immediately after the stretching session. After exercise, however, muscles have more stretching capacity and thus benefit more from the static stretch. Nevertheless, it is still important to stretch gently and stop before the point of pain.