Stretching is widely accepted as a means of increasing your flexibility and reversing the stiffening effect of aging, therefore, it should become a fundamental part of a regular training program for men and women. At the same moment stretching can be a protective measure against serious orthopedic disorders as well as a relief option for serious diseases. In this point we need to make clear that while Stretching is a non invasive measure you should probably give it a go before you opt for drugs or even a possible surgery. Besides stretching is a dynamic measure completely opposite to the approach of “rest till pain is gone” so if you are not the type of guy that is willing to stay on bed probably stretching is an option you should seriously consider.
However, this technique does involve some dangers (mostly, strains, pulls and tears) while, although addressing to an almost unlimited number of people, it is not exactly for everyone. Moreover, there seems to be some controversy in many cases about what is considered as proper stretching, so, in the next paragraphs, we have listed some of the most important Do”s and Don’ts to consider when performing that activity.
The Do’s for Effective and Safe Stretching
- Do proper warm up: This should be an integral part of every stretching technique, as it drastically reduces the chances of an unnecessary injury. Many persons, even those who are not new to training and exercises, make the mistake of skipping that aspect of stretching, flexing cold muscles and running the risk of pulling them; others consider stretching itself as a warm up, which is an equally hazardous misapprehension. Warming up is exactly what you need to create the proper conditions for improving your elasticity and for preventing yourself from having an injury. So, prior to beginning it, warm up by doing some low-intensity walking, jogging, bending and preforming joint rotations for 5-10 minutes so as to properly prepare your body.
- Hold your stretch for at least 30 seconds: Achieving the desired flexibility requires some time, so don’t release your stretch too soon (that mostly applies to passive or static stretching). In fact, some muscle groups might need more than 30 seconds (although exceeding 60 seconds is unnecessary). Therefore, having a clock around is strongly recommended – apart from a good amount of endurance, determination and proper breathing (see beow), of course!
- Perform regular stretching: Flexibleness calls for some dedication, so try to implement a 2-3 time stretching routine, otherwise you are very unlikely to keep a satisfactory range of motion for too long.
- Avoid bouncing: Bouncing is essential in the ballistic type of stretching (not to be confused with the dynamic form), but the great majority of fitness experts believe that it can result in provoking microtears (small tears) in the muscles, which allow for scar tissue later and, ultimately, in tightening the muscle (the complete opposite to the pursued flexibility!), as the muscles cannot catch up the stretching. As a consequence, you may end up being more susceptible to pain or even to injuries!
- Add some movement to your stretch: Leaping and hopping may be detrimental for your muscles but gentle movements are highly advocated since they promote your flexibility. So, begin your stretch by moving at a low intensity and accelerate progressively so as to give your muscles the chance to become familiar with the motion (actually, the dynamic type of stretching makes full use of that principle).
- Work on a muscle or a specific muscle group: Focusing on a muscle rather than stretching all your body muscles at one time gives you the chance to place emphasis on the body parts that need it mostly (for most people, these areas include the lower back, the shoulders, the thighs, the calves and the hips, depending of course on the specific needs or favorite activities of each person). Oh, and also make sure that the range of the motion is equal for each side of your body!
- Breathe while Stretching: Breathing is more than crucial while stretching because oxygen helps your body relax by calming your nervous system. Its important to breathe slow and deep in order to increase your muscles blood flow which will also bring quicker post exercise recovery. Finally breathing while stretching is perfect for removing toxins and lactic acid that are gathered after exercise and cause pain and soreness!
- Stretch after exercise/sports: After a work out session or a sport event (let’s say a soccer or tennis match) stretching is ideal in order to both protect your body from future overuse syndroms and take pain, fatigue and next-day-stifness away (DOMS – delayed onset muscle pain and soreness). When having sports or full-body work outs a stretching routine for your whole body is essential.
- Post Stretching Ice therapy: If you try to face post exercise pain and soreness by means of stretching you should follow the sequence: warm up (not necessary if you stretch right after the exercise while your body is already warm) – stretching – ice therapy! Ice Therapy by means of Ice Compressions is essential after an exercising-stretching sequence because ice causes blood vessels contraction, lactic acid eradication and swelling control.
The Don’ts for Effective and Safe Stretching
In the opening paragraph, we mentioned that stretching is not literally for everyone. That means that some people should either totally abstain from it or have a detailed consultation with a fitness expert before attempting it.
- Seek advice of an expert: First things first! If you are facing some serious issues that involve tense pain and reduced mobility, if you encounter a chronic condition or if you have been harassed by an acute muscle strain you’d better not put some additional stress on that muscle by stretching – in such case consult a professional!
- A bone fracture or a joint sprain are factors that would probably prevent your from carrying out a proper stretching routine, at least before you give your muscles or joints some time to heal.
- Don’t stretch yourself to the stage of pain! The “No pain, No gain” motto has created another prevalent misunderstanding, which can only deliver harm instead of an alleged wider range of motion. Stretching is supposed to be held until the point of tension – or, at least, mild discomfort – and not pain. Thus, listen to your body and, if you experience pain when performing a stretch, that means that you have exceeded the allowable limits and you have to cool off; so, move back to a point that doesn’t cause pain and hold that stretch for the needed seconds.
In general, and apart from asking for your doctor’s advice beforehand, and whatever type or types of stretching you choose to follow, make sure that you do it with safety. Besides, avoiding the exaggerations and the dangers associated with this activity would be the best way to truly exploit the many benefits of stretching.
Category: About Stretching