Stretching helps promote a healthily lifestyle, and
should be a part of everyoneís normal routine. One of the greatest
attributes of muscle stretching is that anyone can do it. You do not
have to be a super athlete, or an athlete at all to experience
firsthand the benefits of stretching your muscles. Another positive aspect
is that it does not require any equipment or
special clothing. You do not have to go to a fitness center, or
purchase anything at a sports store to realize all the benefits of
stretching your muscles. In addition, you can stretch anytime
and nearly anywhere. You can stretch your muscles when talking on
the phone, watching television, talking to a friend, listening to
music, etc. You can stretch your muscles in an airport, train
station, bathroom, kitchen; you can stretch just about anywhere.
So, why doesnít everyone routinely stretch their muscles? I
believe the primary reason for not stretching is because people do
not realize its life changing benefits. For those that realize the benefits and still donít take
time to stretch, normally use the ďdonít have timeĒ excuse for
We encourage you to take the time to learn how to stretch,
whether you are an athlete, or simply a person that wants to enjoy a
healthier lifestyle. The only word of caution is that if you have
injuries, or any other type of medical condition that might render
stretching unsafe, you should first consult your doctor.
General Guidelines for Stretching your Muscles
Muscle Stretching is not complicated, but in order to
maximize the benefits, there are a few things you need to know.
First of all your body should be in control throughout the stretch.
Never jerk or bounce while stretching, doing so can lead to
unnecessary injuries. Muscle stretching should consist of movements
that could be described as slow, steady, and in control.
Second, warm up the
muscles by jogging in place, performing light repetitions of the
movement you are going to perform; or if you are lifting weights,
perform several repetitions using light weights. Warming up is an
important component of muscle stretching, so make sure you warm up your
muscles before stretching them.
Third, as you move into the stretch, you should stop and hold
the position when you feel the muscles tighten. This feeling is
often described as a burning feeling. When muscles are being
stretched you will experience a slight burning or similar feeling;
this is normal. When you are stretching and your joints hurt, or you
are experiencing an abnormal type of pain you need to stop, this is
not normal. Lastly, you should hold each stretch in place for at
least 30 seconds, performing two or more sets depending on your
goals and purpose for muscle stretching.
Fourth, you should know when to stretch your muscles. Some
people advocate stretching before a physical activity, and some
recommend stretching afterwards; I recommend both. Before a physical
activity, you should warm up and stretch your muscles in preparation
of the activity. Once you have completed the activity stretch again,
and spend more time stretching than before. If I had to choose
whether to stretch before or after an activity, Iíd choose
afterwards, but I believe muscle stretching both times are important.
Finally, develop a muscle stretching routine. If you exercise
on a regular basis make sure you include stretching into your
routine. If you do not exercise on a regular basis, you should set
aside some time each day to stretch your muscles; make it a habit.
Once stretching becomes a habit, you will be well on your way to
reaping some of the benefits gained from stretching your muscles.
Benefits of Stretching
The benefits of muscle stretching can be debated, but in that
debate I am firmly on the positive side of stretching the muscles. I
stand by this opinion based on years of personal experience, and
reading dozens of articles written on the subject. Between
athletics, karate, weight lifting, and participating in all types of
skating, I have been stretching my muscles for most of my life. Are
there really benefits to stretching? Most definitely! The
benefits include, but are certainly not limited
to; enhanced performance, decreased risk of injury, improved overall
health, increased flexibility and range of motion, and enhanced
Increased Performance: Stretching your muscles can enhance
performance by helping athletes (and non-athletes), physically
prepare for the physical activity they are about to perform. For
example, I canít imagine football players taking the field, or
figure skaters practicing certain moves without warming up, and
stretching their muscles. This could be said about multiple sports
related, and other physical-type activities. Likewise, muscle
stretching can potentially increase an amateur athleteís or the
occasional basketball playerís ability to perform.
Flexibility: Muscle stretching can significantly
increase a personís flexibility. A flexible body promotes good
overall health, and is vitally important when participating in many,
many types of sports and other physical activities. For athletes, a
flexible body can help prevent injuries, increase performance, and
simply allow the athlete to do whatever activity they are attempting
to do. For non-athletes, the flexibility gained through stretching can significantly increase a personís quality of life. A
flexible body can make normal things we do like getting up off the
floor much easier. Have you ever seen a person with poor flexibility
try to get up from the floor? It can be quite a struggle. Having a
flexible body can make a multitude of things easier to do such as;
getting in and out of a car, tying a pair of shoes, getting dressed,
completing household chores, etc. As we get older we begin losing
our flexibility. Routine stretching of the muscles wonít keep us from aging,
but it can make the aging process much less painful. The benefits of
a flexible body gained through stretching are vast, and most
certainly have a positive effect on a personís quality of life.
Range of Motion: Muscle
stretching also helps increase the bodyís range of motion. When
people are recovering from surgeries, physical therapists often
provide the patient with a list of muscle stretching exercises to
regain the lost range of motion. For those that have simply lost
their range of motion through years of neglecting their bodies,
stretching can help regain much of it back.
Mental Benefits: Stretching the muscles can also benefit a
personís mental wellbeing. One way attain this benefit is to find a quiet place, stretch the muscles slowly, and
focus on the muscles that are being stretched. This seemingly boring
activity can give your mind a much needed break from the daily
stressors most of us face. Another option is to do the same thing,
but incorporate soft background music while stretching the muscles.
Also, muscle stretching can help loosen the muscles to relieve
stress brought on by tight muscles. Another way muscle stretching
can benefit a personís mental wellbeing is through increased
confidence. When people experience an improved state of health, they
generally have more confidence in themselves.