Stretching 101 by Fitness Vida
When it comes to stretching, the act is often overlooked by many that hit the gym or punish their bodies in the name of fun/sport. Maybe it’s lack of understanding or oversight? A proper stretching routine, paired with your fitness routine will go a long way for your overall health and the way your body feels. Since your body will adapt to whatever you do most often with it, not adapting a stretching routine with your workout routine could lead to many negative consequences like back /neck/shoulder tightness/pain, or even injury. Aside from that, it makes you FEEL GREAT when you do it often! Please read on for a quick primer on Stretching 101.
What happens if you don’t stretch enough?
While the act of exercise mainly puts focus on contraction (the squeeze) of the muscles, it is important to realize that solely contracting the muscles all the time can lead to serious limitations in how you move. Constant contraction will lead to shortening of the muscles, which causes muscle imbalances . With these in place, your posture will suffer and that will first lead to pain, and possibly future injury. If you are an athlete or like to engage in recreational activities, muscle imbalances will greatly impede your performance and hold you back.
What are the different types of Stretching?
While there are multiple techniques for stretching, I will stick to the main 2 that you will most likely use.
- Static Stretching– This is the most well known technique that you may currently be doing, or have seen someone doing. To perform a static stretch, one pulls, then holds tension on the muscle between 20-60 seconds before releasing and moving on to next muscle group. By holding the muscle for an extended period of time, we are accomplishing a lengthening and a relaxation of the muscle. Where most people get this wrong is by doing it either before they workout or perform a sport. It can be counter intuitive to try and relax a muscle before we are about to work it hard. It can impair not only performance, but your muscles ability to handle sudden changes in speed and tension. Therefore, we want to static stretch AFTER activity or on rest days for best results. Example here:
- Active Stretching- While the positions are almost exactly the same, it is the technique that separates Static from Active stretching. With an Active Stretch, one will apply tension on a muscle as deep as they can, hold for 2-3 seconds and release. Repeat this process 5-8x on desired muscle groups before moving onto the next. Not only will you be promoting length to the muscles, this process is telling them that you are about to work them on and off with the activity that follows! For best results , perform Active stretches before anything you might do physical in nature (working out, running, hiking, snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding etc.) Active stretching is also great when you are sore (increases blood flow & lengthening to promote healing) or even when you wake up to help you get the day started. Example here:
Now that you know the difference between the two, I challenge you to think about what you are currently doing as far as stretching. Try one of these two instead of your normal go to, or NO to stretching routine. The benefits are many and it should not take more than 20 minutes of your time to give your body something that it is most likely asking for.
Thank for reading Stretching 101.
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