Stretching for sport and exercise improves flexibility, which increases the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion; in other words, how far it can bend, twist and reach. This article attempts to guide how to stretch properly and get the most of it.
Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle’s felt elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion. Stretching is also used therapeutically to alleviate cramps.
Here are some of the main benefits of stretching. Hopefully these reasons will inspire you to make it part of your schedule!
For Your Body
- Helps improve flexibility (increases your range of motion)
- Assists in correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position (because of so much time at our computers, many of us have tight chest muscles which pulls the shoulders and head forward, leaving us with a hunched shoulder look)
- Increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles, thereby possibly reducing muscle soreness
For Your Mind
- Even a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) of stretching can calm the mind, provide a mental break, and give your body a chance to recharge
- Classes like yoga or pilates offer you a chance to spend an hour releasing tension physically and mentally
How to stretch properly?
To stretch properly and safely, slowly stretch the muscle just until you feel resistance. Resistance is the point at which you feel a slight pull. It should not be painful. Stop and hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds without bouncing up and down.
During the stretch, breathe deeply and regularly. Don’t hold your breath. Make sure your muscles are warmed up before you stretch. The best time to stretch is after exercise, when your muscles are most supple. ReLiva suggests 6 active stretches that you must do.
To get the most out of the stretching you do, here are some suggestions:
Dont Skip the Pre-Workout Stretch
Your muscles should be warm before you begin your stretching. Do a warm-up before a workout that simulates the movements you’ll be doing in order to warm up and prepare your body. Stretch after the workout when your muscles are already warm.
Focus on the Muscles That Need the Most Help
Instead of trying to stretch your whole body after every time you exercise, focus on a key area of the body each time. Spend longer on each stretch and include more stretches for each area. If you are aware of muscles that are tight, then focus on those ones.
Include One Long-Duration Flexibility Session Each Week
Choose a flexibility class, such as yoga, pilates, or do your own flexibility work for 45-60 minutes at least once a week. If you’re having trouble sticking to it, follow these strategies and build it into your schedule/calendar.