Stretching is an essential but often overlooking part of maintaining a healthy, fit body. That's why we created our beginner's stretching overview.
Many people struggle with tight muscles, especially in the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. This impairs their ability to function normally and can lead to very serious long term problems.
Investing in the time to properly steetch will allow you to progressively improve your flexibility safely and effectively.
In this article, we will give an overview of stretching, the do's and don'ts, as well as some research backed thoughts.
Stretching improves flexibility, which is the range of motion around a joint. The more flexible you are, the more functionally efficient you will be. Your muscles will be looser and less filled with tension when you are flexible. This will reduce your possibility of injury and result in fewer muscle cramps post workout.
The more flexible you are, the better your posture will be. The enhanced range of motion that more flexible people enjoy allows them to walk, stand and run in a more biomechanically ideal way. Flexible muscles are also more efficient. You will be more agile and better coordinated. This will make you more effective on the sports field as well as in everyday life.
How Flexible Should I Be?
You should be flexible enough to meet the everyday demands that you will meet in your life, along with a little bit extra. That extra amount is known as your ‘flexibility reserve.’ On the other hand, if you do not have enough flexibility to meet your everyday needs, this is known as your ‘flexibility deficit.
Types Of Stretches
Static stretching is the most common type of stretching. There are two types of static stretches:
- Static-active stretching
- Static-passive stretching
Static active stretching involves slowly moving to the total extent of a joint’s range of motion. When you to get the furthest point for you, then hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds.
Static passive stretching involves working with a partner, who gently pushes your muscle to help you to get your full range of motion. You don’t want to jerk or bounce as this takes place but rather you should be relaxed and gently go with it.
Dynamic stretching involves doing active movements that replicate the activity you will be doing in your sport or workout. Rather than holding a static position, you swing the body part. When doing dynamic stretches, use a fluid, rhythmic motion. You should also not take the muscle through its full range of motion. You should also never stretch a muscle before it is warmed up.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
PNF stretching involves going through a sequence that include both contracting and stretching a muscle. PNF stretching ahs shown to be among the best ways to increase range of motion and flexibility.
PNF stretching relies on the stretch reflex of the myotendinous unit by activating mechanoreceptors within the muscle called muscle spindle units and Golgi tendon organs. Muscle spindles help to regulate overall muscle length and tone by activating gamma motor neurons by way of the stretch reflex.
The initial isometric contraction (hold) phase of the PNF stretch lasts for 8 seconds at 40 percent maximal contraction. You repeat this 4 times then. on the 5th contraction, you hold the position for 15 seconds. With each repetition you slightly increase the stretch position.
Other Stretching Considerations
How Long Should I Stretch?
The length of stretch hold depends on the type of stretch you are doing. For dynamic stretching, you should do between 5-10 swings of the dynamic stretch movement. A static stretch should be held for a minimum of 20 seconds. It should take between 2-3 minutes to stretch each muscle group, with a total stretch time of no more than 20 minutes.
Breathing During Stretching
Do not hold your breath when stretching. Doing so will increase your blood pressure and cause tension in the muscle. Simply breathe naturally and instinctively.
There are some commonly performed static stretches that you should not do. Top of the list is the straight legged toe touch. This move can be harmful to the spine. Stretching over fully from the waist as you do with this stretch primarily stretches your ligaments rather than the muscles of your spine or hamstrings.
Other stretches that people commonly do to stretch the hamstrings are equally ineffective. These include the seated toe touch and the hurdler stretch.
Why Get A Home Stretching Machine
Having a stretching machine in your home will allow you to give proper effort and time to this important aspect of overall fitness. Here are 6 ways that you will benefit from investing in your own home use stretching machine:
The whole point of having a stretching machine is to improve your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the more a functional human being you will be!
Motivation to Stretch
Stretching is one of these things that we tend to take for granted. Even when you do make the effort, often we only give a token effort. But when you’ve got a stretching machine staring at you every day, your motivation to stretch will be much greater. A home stretching machine is always on hand, so that you can use it rain or shine.
The added resistance that you can get from a stretching machine will allow you to apply the gentle pressure you need to make progressive improvement on your stretches. To improve flexibility you need to follow the same progressive overload principle as you do in the weight room.
Improving your flexibility will improve your posture but using a stretching machine can also enhance posture while you are stretching. When you stretch with a machine it is easy to overstretch and compromise your posture, balance and coordination. Using an adjustable, customizable stretching machine will overcome this problem.
Reduces Injury Risk
A stretching machine will encourage you into the proper biomechanical bodily alignment. This will help to avoid injury. Then the more you stretch, the less prone to injury you will be in general.
If you are a regular exerciser then you are familiar with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is the muscle soreness that you feel after a workout. Stretching can help to lessen the effects of DOMS. Some stretching machines actually include a heating pad which will further lessen the muscle soreness.
Stretching is an important part of any workout. If you take the time to build up your muscles, you need to spend similar amount of time stretching, to ensure you heal, and continue to have full range of motion.
We gave an overview of the benefits of stretching, the different types of stretching, as well as why you should consider a home stretching machine.
Don't let your hard work go to waste, starting adding stretching into your regular strength training routine.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully by now you’ve got a good idea what stretching is, the types of stretching, its benefits, and why you should consider a home stretching machine.
If you have any questions regarding anything we’ve discussed in this article, or even have any ideas you’d like to suggest, please feel free to get in touch in the comment section below.
Thanks for stopping by.