Stretch for a better body! Why is stretching important? How many of you stretch most days? Are there different ways of stretching? A few questions I will answer that I'm confident will give you a stronger and better body.
We are all aware of the importance of exercising and maintaining a healthy balanced diet. The media constantly talks about these two topics, but what about getting rid of aches and pains? I feel like the term ' stretching' isn't so widely mediated and as a result more people are picking up injuries and this could be avoided by including stretching into your daily workouts. So why do I think stretching is important? Well, when you exercise your muscles shorten, think of them as elastic bands. The tighter the elastic band, the more likely it is to snap when you pull it. Your muscles are like this also. If you constantly exercise without stretching they will continue to shorten and then one day you will pull a muscle. Naturally, after you have finished exercising the muscles will relax, and lengthen but they won't always return to their original state.
Stretching means to lengthen your muscles and rid the muscles of any knots that can occur when you exercise. As you exercise your muscles break down and toxins will generate around them. These toxins can weaken your muscles and they will reduce the range of motion for the particular muscle. For instance, most guys want to build and develop a sharp, full chest. Bench press is a common exercise associated with building the chest muscles, but constantly doing this exercise without stretching can cause the shoulders and chest muscles to stiffen. Some of you may have noticed that when you first performed a bench press you perform the full range of the exercise without impingement in your shoulder, yet nowadays when you perform the exercise you maybe get a slight twinge in the shoulder?? Well, if this is the case, your range of motion within your chest has reduced, tightened and therefore you won't be working the full muscle. If you don't work the full muscle, you are likely to compensate and injure yourself further.
So how can you restore your full range of movement? Easy. There are a few different types of stretching that can be performed on a daily basis. These are, dynamic, ballistic, static and proprioceptive neuromuscular facillitation (PNF). Dynamic is a walking or movement type stretch, whereby you perform slow stretches to reduce the risk of injury going through your full range of motion. Ballistic stretching are fast and explosive stretches that again go through your full range of motion. Both dynamic and ballistic should be performed before your workout to allow maximal blood flow the muscles. Static stretches are exactly that, static. These will be set stretches that are held until a stretch can be felt, then held for no longer than 30 seconds. Static stretching is best performed at the end of your workout. Finally, PNF stretching is used for a particular muscle and some tension is applied and then released to relax the muscle. Ideally, you will do this at the end of your workout and use a partner to help you stretch further.
So how will these benefit you? It doesn't matter what type of exercise you do, whether its gym work, running, rowing, cycling etc. Stretching is going to help you massively in preventing injury and it will allow you to continue to work at your full range of motion. Stretching increases blood flow which will lubricate the joints better due to a better release of synovial fluid. Ultimately, stretching will keep your posture and body in correct alignment that in turn will give you a better more functional physique. If you want to increase your workouts and make them more effective, stretching is a must. Just a little as 10-15 minutes per day will help achieve this. You can also apply an oil to your body that will help relieve toxins from the body.
In summary then. Try to stretch for at least 10-15 minutes per day to allow better blood flow and oxygen uptake from the muscles during your workout. Stretching will allow your body to perform better range of movements during exercises which will develop a fitter body. Finally, include stretching to relieve your body of aching and tiredness. All the best and get stretching today.