Stretching is done to deliberately increase the flexibility of your muscles and increase your range of motion.
There has been a lot of controversy lately about stretching. Some studies say stretching isn’t beneficial at all. I don’t doubt the studies, but honestly, don’t let that get to you. Stretching helps your muscles become limber and keeps them in good working condition. If you’re not flexible, common sense would be that you’ll be more prone to muscle pulls and strains. What would be the use of activities such as Martial Arts and Yoga, right? Stretching should help you continue working out consistently, but it should be performed properly or you could end up hurting your muscles instead.
If you’ve been stretching before activities without conflict, by all means you should continue. It’s a common misconception that you need to stretch before you warm up. Stretching is gradually becoming more of a personal preference before, during, or after a workout. For me, personally, it is best done after a light walk or jogging in place for a couple minutes – then after my workout I stretch for a couple minutes again which decreases muscle soreness and helps my muscles recover.
If you’re doing strength training, try stretching in between sets. It’s a great way to increase blood circulation and feed oxygen to the muscles you’re working on – definitely what you want. It also feels great!
I’m against having a partner or an instructor push you too far during stretching warm-ups. It can be dangerous when they tell you to ,”go lower!” I guess that’s where some injuries come from. Only have someone assist you if you’re comfortable with your flexibility, otherwise, take it easy!
Stretching is beneficial!
- Helps lengthen muscle for flexibility
- Improves circulation and blood flow
- Allows joints to move in a full-range of motion
- Relieves muscle tension
- Prevents muscle injuries
How to Stretch
A few general tips to make your stretches more effective:
- Go easy on yourself, only go as far as you can without feeling any pain
- Stretch slowly
- Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds, but not too long
- Stay relaxed so your muscles are stretching as much as possible
- Be patient! You won’t be able to do the splits the next day so take it easy!
Many people are against stretching your muscles “cold,” which is stretching before you do any activity or warm-ups because there is risk of pulling your muscles. If you know you’re body’s limits, it’s fine as long as you don’t hurt yourself. If not, try getting your heart rate up a little before stretching – jumping jacks are perfect for this!
Common mistakes with stretching:
- Don’t “bounce!” This is an ineffective and can cause small tears in your muscles!
- “No pain no gain” – That is the worst thing you can do if you’re stretching, do not stretch to the point of pain.
- Breathing – continue to breath normally even while you’re going down to stretch, let the oxygen you take in get to the muscle your stretching
Stretching is NOT a bad thing!
Stretching is usually something we do naturally especially if we’ve been sitting in a chair or have been in a static position for too long. Yoga, martial arts, pilates, aerobics, etc. are all activities that require you to have some flexibility. Stretching should be important because it increases your range of motion, mitigating the risk of injuries.
Although stretching is good for almost anyone, people with acute muscle strains or joint sprains should avoid stretching and allow their bodies to heal first.
Get out there and incorporate stretching into your exercise regime, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself!