Any trauma to the tissues of the body (such as resistance training) creates inflammation. This inflammation activates the body’s pain receptors and initiates a protective mechanism, increasing muscle tension or causing muscle spasm. As a result of this spasm, adhesions (or knots) begin to form in the soft tissue, forming weak, inelastic tissue fibers that act as roadblocks, preventing the muscle fibers from moving properly. If left unchecked, these adhesions can begin to form permanent structural changes in the soft tissue. Stretching helps restore the normal elasticity of the entire soft tissue complex, which is why it should be an integral part of any training program.
Make sure you are stretching every time you workout and get to know a foam roller – they’re at your gym for a reason! You’ll develop a real love-hate relationship with it, but believe me – you’ll eventually wonder how you ever lived without it! Both the foam roller and static stretching (stretching the muscle to the first point of tension in a non-compensated position and then holding for 20-30 seconds) are designed to increase the elasticity of connective tissue, relaxing the muscles, allowing them to respond more efficiently and effectively during activity. Bottom line: get down and stretch!