For some people, stretching may not be a priority to their exercise routine. Some may think that flexibility training is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before or after pounding out some miles on the treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?
Although studies about the benefits its are diverse, it is proven that it may help you improve your joint range of motion, which also may help improve your athletic performance and reduce your risk of injury. Understand why stretching can help and how to stretch correctly.
Benefits of stretching
Studies about its benefits show that stretching helps. Other studies show that stretching before or after exercise has little if any benefit and doesn’t reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Studies have also shown that static stretching performed immediately before a sprint event may decrease performance to a small degree.
More research is needed, but some of the most important benefits are thought to be:
• Improves athletic performance in some activities
• Improves Injury rehabilitation
• Increases blood flow to the muscle.
Better flexibility can improve your performance in physical activities or reduce your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enabling your muscles to work most effectively.
Make sure you do it safely and effectively. Even though you may be able to stretch in almost any setting — you want to be sure to use proper technique. Incorrect form can actually do more harm than good.
Use these tips to keep stretching safe:
• A stretch session is not a warm-up. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up.
Also, consider holding off on stretching before an intense activity, such as circuit training, strength training workouts. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.
• Focus on primary muscle groups. Try to focus on major muscle groups such as your hips, lower back, calves, thighs, neck and shoulders.
Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. Make sure that you stretch both sides. For instance, if you stretch your left hamstring, be sure to stretch your right hamstring, too.
• Do not bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing back and forth. Bouncing as you stretch can cause injury to your muscle.
• Hold your stretch. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds. Breathe deeply as you stretch.
• Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you are working on flexibility, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
• Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity. If you play soccer, for instance, you’re more vulnerable to hamstring strains. So opt for stretches that help your hamstrings.
• Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.
If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits offered by flexibility. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, and you stop stretching, your range of motion may decrease again.
• Bring movement. Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific movements. The gentle movements of tai chi or yoga, for instance, may be a good way to stretch.
And if you’re going to perform a specific activity, such as a kick in martial arts or kicking a soccer ball, do the move slowly and at low intensity at first to get your muscles used to it. Then speed up gradually as your muscles become accustomed to the motion.