Stretching 101

There is so much information out there on why to stretch, how to stretch, and when to stretch. Do you stretch before or after you exercise, or both? Well, the following will clear up those questions. 

WHY Stretch?

Well, stretching is important for gaining and maintaining a greater range of motion. This increase in range of motion causes your muscles to generate more force, and helps you perform better. Muscles shorten as they fatigue during a workout, which leads to less speed and power generation. Stretching keeps muscles elongated and reduces this tendency. Even everyday tasks will seem easier, but even more importantly, flexible muscles are less prone to injury and soreness. Your muscles contain stretch receptors that communicate with your brain about their overall level of tension. When your muscles are chronically tight, your body is thrown out of alignment. This creates muscular imbalances and poor posture, which tells your brain that your body is under constant stress. This can lead to tension headaches. Stretching can undo most of the postural damage we do in our daily lives. Psychologically, stretching can decrease stress and provide a sense of wellbeing. It simply feels good! In addition, some research has shown that stretching the muscle group you just worked between sets can increase strength gains by 19%.


HOW to Stretch

Warm up first! Stretching before warming up can lead to pulled muscles. Warm up by walking or doing your favorite exercise at low intensity for a few minutes.

Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and up to 60 seconds for problem areas. If you feel pain, back off until the pain stops and hold the stretch.

Make sure to breathe.


WHEN to Stretch

Some light stretching before an activity is fine, but focus most of your stretching after your workout.

Some conditions in which stretching should be avoided include: acute muscle strains, fractured bones, and joint sprains.

Here are some stretches to try for your back and neck:

Back Stretches

Neck Stretches

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