Stretching really is so important, that being said, many neglect doing it, and I’d have to admit I’m one of them when it comes to lifting weights. I did Ju-Jitsu for 10 years and we did around 15 mins stretching before doing anything in every class. As for the weights it`s something I`m working at to improve, before and after each session.
Why stretching is important
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which inhibits walking. Likewise, when tight muscles are suddenly called on for a strenuous activity that stretches them, such as playing tennis, they may become damaged from suddenly being stretched. Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury.
Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible, and this means that exertion won’t put too much force on the muscle itself. Healthy muscles also help a person with balance problems to avoid falls.
Where to start
With a body full of muscles, the idea of daily stretching may seem overwhelming. But you don’t have to stretch every muscle you have. The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial. Aim for a program of daily stretches or at least three or four times per week. Find a physical therapist who can assess your muscle strength and tailor a stretching program to fit your needs.
Most people do not generally give stretching enough consideration. However, stretching reduces the chance of injury. Age stiffens and shortens our tendons and ligaments. The result is limited range of motion, bad posture and painful movements. Stretching can reverse these effects of aging. Exercise can also shorten range of motion. When a muscle is exercised, it becomes shortened and tight. Over a period of time, as the muscle gains strength, it stays in this tight and contracted form reducing range of motion.
Cold muscles should never be stretched; always warm-up the muscles before stretching. Warm muscles and connective tissues are more pliable than cold ones. Stretching reduces the potential for injury by warming up and lengthening the muscles and connective tissue. Stretching after exercise reverses the tightening and shortening effect of exercise on the muscles and connective tissues. Stretching and strength increase together because when the muscle is lengthened is has a longer stroke to full contraction, thereby generating more work. Stretching can also reduce tension. Studies have shown less electrical activity within a muscle after stretching.
Types of Stretching
There are various types of stretching techniques. The first is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). This technique simply involves the application of resistance along with the stretch. Generally, another person can assist by applying pressure or resistance on the limb in the direction of the stretch. This type of stretching can also be accomplished by using a wall or other object to apply light pressure or resistance to the muscle to be stretched.
The other type of stretching is a two-stage stretch. First stretch the muscle for about 3 seconds. Release the stretch, exhale and stretch again. The second stage of the stretch will allow further range of motion than the first. Hold the second stage of the stretch for 10 – 15 seconds.
Never bounce during a stretch or perform any type of ballistic or forceful stretch. When a muscle is stretched forcefully or in a ballistic manner, a reflex action occurs within the muscle to protect the joint. The muscle is sent a signal by the Golgi tendon to contract quickly to protect against an over extension of the joint. Unfortunately, a stretch is still in progress. Tissues can tear based on the conflicting movements.
Here are a few benefits from stretching
Helps promote a stress free body – A buildup of stress causes your muscles to contract, making you feel tense and uneasy. This tension can lead to having a negative impact on mind as well as your body. Stretching exercises have powerful stress-busting abilities. Stretching soon after waking up can help jump-start the mind and body. Stretching loosens tight muscles which helps your muscles both relax and increase blood flow. It also encourages the release of endorphins, providing a sense of tranquility and euphoria. Stretching directly before bed will even give you a more comfortable sleeping experience.
Helps overall posture – Stretching helps ensure correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position and keeping your muscles loose. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture by relieving aches and pains. With reduced pain, there is a reduced desire to hunch or slouch.
Helps Improve flexibility – The most established and obvious benefit of stretching is improving flexibility and range of motion. An effective flexibility training program can improve your physical performance and help reduce your risk of injury. By improving your range of motion, your body requires less energy to make the same movements and you also will have more flexible joints thus lessening the likelihood of injuries acquired during workouts or during daily activities.
Helps Increase stamina – Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. The longer you exercise the more energy you burn, typically causing one to grow fatigued. With stretching, you can delay the onset of muscle fatigue by ensuring oxygen is efficiently flowing through your blood, thereby increasing your endurance.
Helps decreases risk of injury – it will help to supply a greater nutrient supply to muscles, thereby reducing muscle soreness and helping to speed recovery from muscle and joint injuries.
Helps Improve energy levels – Sometimes you may have trouble staying awake during your long, dragging day. If you’re feeling this way then it might help to get out of your seat and do a few good stretches for a boost of energy, helping your mind and body be more alert. Muscles tighten when we get tired and that makes us feel even more lethargic, so stand up and do some stretches. It will help you to quickly and efficiently revitalize your energy levels.
Helps promote blood circulation – it increases blood flow to the muscles. Not only will this help reduce post-workout soreness and shorten recovery time, but it will improve overall health. Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. The heart rate will also lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard and blood pressure will become more even and consistent.
Helps Improve athletic performance – If your muscles are already contracted because you haven’t stretched, then they will be less effective during exercise. Regular stretching will relax all of your muscles and therefore enable them to be more available during exercise.
Helps reduce soreness – Stretching before and after a workout gives your muscles time to relax. Increases in blood flow increase nutrient supply to the muscles and relieve soreness in the muscles after a workout.
Helps reduce cholesterol – Paired with a healthy diet, engaging in prolonged stretching exercises can help reduce cholesterol in the body. This could prevent and even reverse the hardening of arteries, helping one avoid heart diseases.