Stretching is something we all know we should be doing more of, but aren’t actually. Why is that? Is it that we don’t know how to stretch? Is it that we don’t know why or when to stretch?
Static Stretching (elongated timed stretching) is used mainly for improving flexibility, but more importantly for injury prevention. Focus your stretching routine on gaining full range of motion. In improving your range of motion, you can better your workout routine by improving your form and your everyday activities.
Another way to stretch would be Dynamic Stretching. Dynamic stretching is typically done as a warm up, before the workout. Hold the positions for a few seconds and use “reps” (5 each leg for example) instead of seconds. So, walking lunges, leg swings, arm circles, etc. Still treating these movements as a stretch!
First and foremost, static stretching should be done while the muscles are warm and cooling down. Typically, you would never want to have a deep stretching session before a run or before a heavy lift. Prolonged stretches should be done towards the end of a workout. Elongated muscles don’t have the ability to contract, making your workout to come less effective.
When deciding what to stretch, be sure that you are choosing a variety. Ideally, you want to hit all of the major muscle groups (arms, back, chest, legs) and a few minor muscles (neck, feet, and wrists). It could be tempting to pick the muscle groups that you know are already flexible and have a good range of motion. Challenge yourself! Stretch the muscles that you know are tight and don’t have much range of motion.
Each stretch that you chose to complete should be held for 10-30 seconds and repeated at least 1-2 times. Try to focus on your breathing during stretching; focus on the muscles that you are stretching. This will allow for a mind-body connection. Mind-body connection allows you to feel more in touch with your body; more self-aware. If you’re worried about doing the same stretches every day, don’t! There is nothing wrong with stretching those muscles daily. Just be sure that when you stretch you are stretching effectively. If you no longer feel that you are stretching certain muscles that could be a great indicator that your stretching routine needs to be switched up. If a muscle feels too tight to barely, that is a big indicator that you should hold that position a little longer and breathe through the stretch. If stretching correctly, you should feel somewhat uncomfortable, but never pain. Stretch ONLY to the point of feeling tension and no further. Try to avoid any bouncing while holding a stretch! This will ensure that you are not overstretching any muscles.
When dealing with specific injuries, typically there is a certain reason that that area of the body is over active. With stretching, there must be a high level of consistency in stretching to better that injury. Be smart with how and where you are stretching! If it feels wrong, don’t do it!
If you are interested in learning some stretches and channeling your inner Yogi, come try out one of our 6 Yoga classes here at the RiverPlex!