Do you often wake up feeling in need of a little stretch?
Have you just embarked on a new exercise routine and confused on what stretches you should be doing and when?
When do you stretch, and should you stretch every day?
Hopefully, I can help you to get the best from stretching and why I believe its important to do the right type of stretching at the right time.
I wanted to share my thoughts with you concerning stretching, as there is such a lot of controversy over stretches and whether we should be doing or not and even the type.
I have my own opinion on where I believe stretching works well within our workouts and the type of stretching that you should be doing and when.
It is so important to stretch your body so let me explain further.
Why Should We Stretch Every Day?
There are many reasons as to why we should stretch so that we can continue to function at our best during our daily lives.
Stretching helps us to stop imbalances that can lead to injury.
The correct type of stretching before any activity can help our muscles to warm up and lengthen. When we warm up the blood flows and takes energy and oxygen to the muscles and bones, to help our body prepare for the workout ahead.
Through preparing our body before any activity we allow the stretching process to lengthen our muscles and allow our joints to become more supple and mobile so that we can perform better due to a better body alignment thereby reducing the risk of injury.
Starting any activity is the time we want to be at our peak performance which is why warming up and stretching is key.
The more we stretch, we find that we stand up taller and feel longer through our limbs which is showing how our body is in perfect alignment.
Stretching our body regularly gives us a better opportunity to become more flexible and have a lot more mobility through our joints. This reduces imbalances throughout our body so that we can perform at our peak not just during activity but throughout our everyday life.
Length creates strength and this what allows our spine to align correctly and for the rest of our body to move better even when walking, sitting down or brushing our teeth.
Optimizing your workouts will improve your performance through increased motion. Stretching your Hamstrings, Quads and hip flexors will allow you to squat deeper which will also allow you to cycle better. Stretching your upper body such as your shoulders, chest and arms will give us an improved range of movement in downward facing dog which will help improve our serve in our tennis game.
Keeping our body at its peak whether ready for activity or everyday life we want to ensure that we feel refreshed and recovered at the start of the day.
Sleep plays a big part in repairing our muscles and joints so stretching sits particularly well with this recovery process. After physical activity we might sometimes get soreness within our muscles and joints which can last throughout the day. This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which can be helped with stretching after you have exercised or finished a hectic and busy day.
The benefits are not just physical because we often get mentally stressed and our body works in the same way. Our muscles start to tense and tighten, and we often notice that we are not mobile in the same way. Tense muscles can lead to injury so lessening the risk through stretching is key to better recovery.
Participating in a regular stretching activity such as Yoga can not only help the body but will also help the mind.
Remember that both our body and mind work together similarly to the fact that our legs are connected to our back and abdominals which are connected to our shoulders, neck, and head. We move as one unit and the better we are doing that the more confident we feel and the better we perform daily.
So, I have mentioned that we need to stretch, before and after activity but what type of stretching is best and when.
It is important to prepare our body before our workout or activity, so this stretch is the best way to do this.
Performed once your body is warm and then you move into dynamic stretches which would set us up to perform an activity the best way possible.
Dynamic stretches replicate the movement pattern that would be undertaken for the activity ahead and is now introduced to exercise classes prior to the main part of the workout.
An example of this type of stretch would be high knees or butt kicks to prepare us for running.
Many years a go we believed that this is the best type of stretching both for pre and post activity and I remember doing this before my athletic races.
Ballistic stretching is when we would take a move and bounce repeatedly into the stretch on a reoccurring basis.
An example of ballistic stretching is touching your toes and then bounce your way to further deepen the muscle length.
We rarely see this type of exercise nowadays because forceful sudden stretching movements can damage the soft tissue and ligaments which can make them more susceptible to injury.
Ballistic stretching for the majority of people is unnecessary and not recommended but it can be useful for top athletes and sports people when performed correctly.
This type of stretch is generally how people think we perform stretching our body and has been around for centuries.
To perform this stretch you need to hold a move in position for approximately 15 to 30 seconds to elongate our muscles and stabilize our joints.
I recommend that this type of stretch is most effective following a workout or activity to aid recovery and stop the onset of muscle soreness.
Our bodies are usually warm before starting and you should repeat the same exercise 3 or 4 times feeling a deeper stretch each time.
If you feel that during the day your body is sore or tense, then you could also perform some stretches prior to going to bed. Please make sure that you warm up your muscles prior to embarking on these stretches.
An example of this type is a static hip flexor stretch following a cycle session.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretch
This is a more advanced form of flexibility stretching which is best performed by a second person who would usually be a physiotherapist, sports injury specialist, personal trainer, coach, or other health practitioner.
PNF stretching was started initially by clinicians as a form of rehabilitation and can be highly effective. Targeted muscles groups see improvements with flexibility and strength especially in patients recovering from injury.
An example of this type of stretch would be a PNF hamstring stretch.
Lying on your back on the floor lift your leg up to the ceiling until you feel that slight stretch in the back of the leg. Usually the second person would kneel towards you so that your leg could be placed on their shoulder at that point. Whilst breathing at the right time you will push pressure into the shoulder through the leg as it is moved into a slightly deeper stretch for about 10 to 15 seconds prior to relaxing.
This exercise would then be repeated about 3 times and is a remarkably effective stretch. Most static stretches can be performed as a PNF type stretch.
Hopefully, I have been able to explain to you the different needs for stretching and what type is best for you to do pre or post activity or to help with an injury.
Stretching should form an important part of your daily exercise routine and is beneficial for your general well being.
Our bodies perform better when our muscles and joints are in perfect alignment and enable us to improve our flexibility and mobility which are important for all our movement patterns.
If you need any further assistance on this or have any comments please leave below.