Stretching, flexibility, what’s that? You ask,
Alas, “it is a long forgotten ancient ritual practiced by Tibetan monks for centuries.” Well not really, but it did sound rather good I thought when I first wrote it.
It is in fact the thing that we are least likely to do when we go to the gym but possibly one of the most important features of our workout. Everybody can benefit from stretching. There are no age limits on this one. Stretching benefits include:
- Prevention of injuries
- Better range of movement
- Improved muscle appearance
- It results in far less muscle pulling over extension injuries
- It invigorates the circulatory respiratory and neuromuscular systems
- Prevention of postural problems
- Helps prevent overuse injuries occurring
- Allows for better quality of life through better movement with less restriction
Try to stretch everyday if possible. Try some “Dynamic stretching”…Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching which is beneficial in sports utilizing momentum from form, static-active stretching strength and the momentum from static-active stretching strength, in an effort to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion not exceeding your static-passive stretching ability. Anything beyond this range of motion becomes what is known as ballistic stretching.
This form of stretching prepares the body for physical exertion and sports performance. In the past it was the practice to undertake static stretching before exercise. However dynamic stretching increases range of movement, blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion. Increasingly coaches and sports trainers are aware of the role in dynamic stretching in improving performance and reducing the risk of injury.
Make sure you are warm whether by a passive warm up (via the sauna or hot shower) or some light exercise to raise your body temperature. In winter it may take a little longer to get warm. Consult with your local gym about full body stretches and make sure they show you exactly what to do.
Stretching is ideal for people who have poor flexibility or muscle and joint problems. Those people who suffer with low (lumbar) back pain can receive a great deal of relief from stretching of the hamstrings. About 80% of low back pain is due to poor abdominal strength along with very tight hamstrings. It is now hypothesized that the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are more adaptable and responsive to flexibility exercises when they are done after the endurance conditioning phase of exercise.
Ask your gym if they have Yoga! It is often a fun way to stretch and receive all the worthwhile benefits.
Pilates is also an exercise program designed to condition and correct muscle imbalances, improve posture and the muscles more supple.
By: John Hart
Master’s In Education” (Disability/Rehab) Newcastle University Australia
“Grad Cert Education” Newcastle University Australia
“Diploma of Sport and Recreation”
“Cert 4 Personal Training”
“Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach”
Member of ASCA (Australian Strength and Conditioning Association)