Here's one basic rule about stretching: the stretching you should do depends entirely on what you're preparing for. For example, if you're preparing to go out and bowl in a cricket match, you need to stretch for the movement patterns that are associated with that particular activity. Similarly, if you're going out to sprint, you need to prepare according to those movement patterns, which are very different. One more thing to understand is that it's not just the muscle that needs to be stretched - it is equally important to stretch the nerves that run through that muscle as well.

There's actually a debate now in expert circles about whether static stretching (or holding a stretch) is actually beneficial at all. A lot of new research shows that there is no significant benefit gained from doing a static stretch. In terms of injury prevention, statistics show that injury does not necessarily reduce in most sports as a result of static stretching. In order to prepare the muscle for an activity, I focus on more dynamic stretching and movement stretches could be helpful.

This way, when you move, you're not only stretching the muscle, you're also raising its temperature, consequently you're also preparing it for the movements and the activities that you're about to undertake. In addition, you're also stretching the neural tissue, which is equally, if not more, important. If the nerve tissue is compromised in any way and isn't flexible enough, it can affect how that muscle operates.

With my cricket team, we tend to do a lot of lunge walking, leg kicks and hamstring stretching that involves bending and straightening the knees. They all involve a movement that is similar to the movements that you're going to go out on the field and do. Similarly, for somebody who's looking to do some gentle running, movement stretches that are associated with those muscle groups, i.e. calf, quadriceps and the hamstring need to be focused on.

Static stretching does not necessarily mean a lesser chance of injury - many years ago we just assumed that static stretching helps. But in some cases, static stretching can actually have an adverse effect - it can cause the muscle to recoil, especially in individuals who don't know how to stretch properly. So you're better off doing a small dynamic stretch or no stretching at all, rather than forced static stretching.

Of course, even with dynamic stretching, there is a risk of injury if you're uninformed or doing it incorrectly. It's important to get the right advice about what are the relevant stretches for the sport you are doing. The idea of stretching is to reduce injury, so you're better off doing stretching that is going to actually help rather than hinder.

Obviously, stretching will differ from sport to sport - If you look at what the predominant movement patterns are: for a batsman there's a lot of lunging, short sharp sprinting, acceleration and deceleration. Similarly, with tennis, squash or badminton, there's lots of direction changing and short, sharp, explosive bursts. So the stretching you need to do for the upper limb would be slightly different than that you should do for a batsman.

To end, here's the same thing I said at the beginning of the article - a general rule of thumb would be to relate stretching to the movement patterns you're about to undertake, and you're good to go.

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