- Exercise & Fitness
How To Effectively Stretch and The Benefits of Stretching
Have you ever wondered if you should stretch before a workout or leave it till after the workout? These are two questions I get all the time from people who are new to exercising. While most experts are in agreement that you can stretch when not fully warmed up, you have to however make sure you are following some proper safety and stretching guidelines. If you are going to stretch befor taking the time to adaquatly warm up your body could add stress to your muscle and joints. The reason behind this is a cold stretch or cold stretching (which is when you stretch without warming up first) may result in injuring yourself if done improperly.
Benefits of Stretching
A small warm up of 3 - 5 minutes is usually sufficient for most people. Doing so, will allow you to be warm enough to stretch those muscles and lower the chance of you pulling or tearing anything. Performing a warmup gets body ready for upcoming activity by moving blood towards the muscles. Keep in mind that stretching should never hurt. If you feel an uncomfortable pain you probably are stretching too far and should reduce the stretch.Stretching may increase your range of motion, reduce soreness, and contribute to recovery. However, research is still going back and forth on this. It does however help with posture, tension and helps increase flexibility.
Stretching should be held for a minimum of 15 – 30 seconds according to Mayoclinic. On the other hand, I’ve also read research journals that say 20 seconds to as high as 1 minute. Either way, try not to stretch for less than 20 seconds if you’re going to stretch. Also make sure to keep in mind the range or angle of the muscle you are wanting to stretching. Being off by a few degrees can change the desired affected muscle you where hoping to stretch.
Advice While Stretching
- Remember not to stretch if it is too painful. Pain is usually your body's way of telling you something is wrong.
- If you feel pain, relax for a bit and hold the stretch at a different angle or intensity.
- Try to stretch ever day when possible.
- If you happen to be tighter in a particular area or a more difficult area of your body, you can always perform multiple stretches on it with rest in between.
- If you happen to have any injuries or health conditions you should talk to your doctor and / or a physiotherapist first before beginning.
- Lastly! Remember to hold for at least 20 seconds. Researchers have suggested that for gains or improvements anything less than 15 seconds was not enough for major improvements.
Make stretching a Habit
Just like eating showering and brushing teeth, and being active. I like to encourage people to make stretching a habit and part of their daily routine. You need to maintain your body and muscles and I will even go as far as suggesting them to train even at work. I don’t care if your coworkers are looking at you. In ten years when your coworkers have back and neck problems or bad posture you will be thankful you maintained yourself and worked on flexibility.
Basic Type of Stretches
Holding a stretch with no movement
Stretches that involve movement
A type of stretch that involves bouncing
Enjoy the benefits!
Stretching can be even more beneficial when done with another person. So bring a friend, spouse and read up on PNF stretching (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching) or hire a person trainer to work with you on your troubled areas.
Take the time to learn and remember nothing good comes easy. Allow your body understand all the new motions you are showing body and to adapt to this new change and stress you are putting on it. Safe, slow and steady is the way to stretch safe and improve your range of motion.
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