WHY YOU NEED TO STRETCH
Do you have tunnel vision when you’re exercising and just do your workout, and rush home? There may be a reason for you to slow down and focus on stretching pre and post-workout. The importance of stretching is often overlooked. Having flexibility is an important component of health and fitness. Benefits can improve your range of motion and performance. It reduces post-exercise soreness and helps you move with less effort. Maintaining flexibility helps improve balance and alignment. There are many different methods behind stretching, and here are some to consider for your routine.
TYPES OF STRETCHING
Uses repetitive bouncing movements.
Mimics a specific sport in an exaggerated and controlled way. This is usually done before performing or a sports event.
Passively stretching a muscle to the point of mild discomfort and holding it. It is recommended to hold the position between 10 and 90 seconds.
PROPRIOCEPTIVE NEUROMUSCULAR FACILITATION (PNF)
It uses a partner and involves contraction and relaxation of muscles. Your partner holds your limb in a position of mild discomfort, and you contract the muscle for 10 seconds then relax. Then the muscle is stretched deeper, and the process continues. This is important to provide a greater range of motion and motivation. In addition, PNF can be done with a tool like a strap or a band.
Uses a foam roller to relieve tension and improve flexibility in the muscle tissues. Small continuous movement with pressure is placed on the muscle for about 2-6 seconds.
TIPS FOR STRETCHING
Warm-up, but don’t stretch statically. When muscles are cold, it can produce injury. However, warming up or stretching dynamically is best. Take a short walk or do movements that mimic the activity you are about to do for 5-10 minutes before exercise.
Stretching after a workout can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Benefits are seen over time due to the increased range of motion to perform exercises at their full potential.
PNF STRETCHING IS BEST
Results in more significant increases in range of motion, but if you do not have a partner static is easier to do.
DO NOT OVERSTRETCH
Even though stretching improves range of motion, overstretching can cause muscle weakness. Think of a rubber band. When you first get it, it’s tight, and as you continuously work it, it never returns to its original form. It may compromise joint integrity. In some sports, over flexibility is detrimental, like running. A study found that runners who had less flexibility ran more efficiently. Focus on tight muscles: Weight training puts stress on your joints and muscles, and they become tight. Pay attention to these areas and stretch to increase blood flow there. This is where myofascial release is most beneficial.
Overall it seems warming up before exercise and cooling down through stretching is helpful. It is essential to look at your activity and apply these techniques for your type of activity. Because flexibility is one of the five components of fitness, it is vital to make it apart of your routine. Don’t forget to perform stretching 2-3 days a week for at least 10 minutes a day for long term benefits
Heather Fletcher is a lifestyle writer with 10 years of experience in health and wellness. She received her Master’s in Exercise Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh. She enjoys everything fitness-related and is a self-described foodie.