Stretching plays a very important role when it comes to exercise. And, even if you do not exercise often, there are benefits to stretching. For example, when you stretch, you help your muscles relax and become more flexible. That allows you to improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. If you are (generally) sedentary and decide to start working out, you are even more prone to getting injured, which makes stretching even more important.
With regards to stretching, one of the issues is that too many have no idea of how to stretch correctly (think form and technique) and end up emulating others they see at the gym or park (which may or not be done correctly). However, there are things you should do and others you should avoid if you want to get a good stretch.
Let us take a look at a few of them.
Do – Use Static Stretching at the Appropriate Time
Static stretching is the type of stretching most people are (probably) familiar with. This is when you stay in one position and ‘hold the stretch’ for one or multiple muscle groups. One thing you should know is that while it can be beneficial, it could increase your chance of injury if you perform static stretching before training. It is advised to perform static stretching at the end of your session rather before – with added bonus that it can decrease muscle soreness in the following day(s).
You should not stretch a cold muscle, and doing so before a workout or competition may decrease your strength, power, and performance.
Don’t – Go too Long
One thing you should avoid is stretching intensively for long periods. It is recommended that you do not keep the same position for more than 30 seconds (15-30 post-training). This is especially true if you feel pain (you should go to the point of slight discomfort and intensity). If you are feeling pain when stretching, this means that the muscles are (likely) beyond their range of motion (ROM) and you should wait until you have more flexibility to try to extend it – of course it could also indicate an injury.
Do – Use Dynamic Stretches During Sessions
If you are feeling muscle tightness during your workouts, then you probably to do more dynamic stretches during sessions (This means slow, controlled movements rather than remaining still and holding a stretch). WebMD suggests using those to warm up the muscles and prep them for the coming exercise. This will also start facilitating the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to muscles that are about to be worked.
Don’t – Avoid Tough Strength Exercise
Some people might be afraid to try certain exercises because they feel that they do not have the ROM needed to perform them. The truth is that the reason why you may not have the ROM is that you do not perform the movement (or a similar one) often enough.
Instead of avoiding these exercises altogether, start slowly and get some help. For instance, if you are worried about going too low on squats, you could use a bench to support you. This way you can go down until you are at least parallel, then have a bench to support you on the way up. Also, make sure to perform things like quad stretches after your sessions to relieve the muscles and accelerate recovery.
Do – Stretch if you have a Desk Job
If you are an office worker, it is advisable to stretch frequently. Being sedentary means that you could be putting pressure on your lower back and neck (causing pain and discomfort, and affecting your posture). This is one reason to make it a habit to stop and stretch your neck and back from time to time. You could, for example, get yourself a stability ball and perform abdominal stretches. These will help relieve lower back pressure and will strengthen your abdominal region at the same time.
To stretch better and reap all of the benefits, make sure that you follow these tips.
Not only will you be able to reduce the chance of injury, you will also be able to increase your strength, power, and performance.