Stretching 101 - Learn How To Stretch Correctly
For Increased Flexibility
the time we were kids, our gym teachers and coaches told us to stretch.
Since then there have been many studies published about stretching.
Each one answers the questions of when - before or after exercise,
how long - for each muscle and total amount of time, and what type
you should do to get optimal performance. A lot of the results are
contradictory, but this should come as no surprise, as this is what
often happens with research. There are different controls, variables,
and situations, and therefore different results. And, not everyone
defines optimal performance in the same way. Some researchers are
focused on strength, others on speed, and still another group on
However, all fitness professionals agree that flexibility
is the range of motion within a joint and it is enhanced by stretching.
There are several types but most can be grouped into one of two
categories: dynamic (active) or static (passive). Simply put, dynamic
stretching involves motion and passive does not.
Two examples of dynamic stretching are active and
ballistic. Active is when you keep a position without assistance.
For instance, if you were to stand on one foot with your leg straight
but not lock your knee, lift the other leg in front of you parallel
to the floor, and not move or sway without help. Active stretches
are usually difficult to hold for more than 10 or 15 seconds.
Ballistic is a bouncing and repetitive motion. It
forces you into an extended range of motion when the muscle has
not relaxed enough to enter it. An example would be if you were
to stand with your legs straight but not lock your knees, bend at
the waist, touch your toes, bounce back up, and repeat. While there
are different philosophies about both the effectiveness and safety
of this type of stretching, many believe it should only be used
by professional athletes or while supervised by a trainer. If performed
incorrectly, injury could result.
stretching is when you stretch through a muscle's full range of
motion while the body is at rest. You generally hold the position
10-30 seconds, relax for a few seconds, and then repeat several
times. Slight discomfort could be experienced during the stretch,
but pain should not. An example is if you were to stand with your
legs straight but not lock your knees, bend at the waist and hang
comfortably in the down position without bouncing.
One type of static stretching is passive stretching.
Using the example above, if you were to have a trainer help you
to hold that position, it would be passive.
The benefits of stretching go beyond directly affecting
your ability to exercise. They positively impact the activities
of daily life. Your improved flexibility will make lifting grocery
bags, tying your shoes, and gardening easier. A broader range of
motion in your joints will aid in balance, and reduce the chance
of you falling. Stretching also relieves stress, and improves circulation
which can quicken recovery of muscle injury.
It is important to note that if stretching is performed
improperly, you risk injury. Common incorrect practices are stretching
until it hurts, holding the position for too long (for instance
5 minutes), or doing so vigorously. And, not to state the obvious,
but you should always continue to breathe while you stretch. It
seems somewhat comical to mention this, but you would be surprised
at how many people hold their breaths. Be smart and use common sense.
If you need additional guidance, ask a qualified trainer or physician.