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Stretch it Out

April 7, 2010

By Gerard Bochese

Many people do not include any type of stretching in their workout routine. Some people only do their stretching by taking yoga and pilates classes.

There are many ways of stretching, and it is important to include the right forms of stretching at the right time in your exercise routine.

Stretching creates flexibility, and flexibility is important to help decrease the chance of muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions, and overuse injuries. Without optimum flexibility, it is impossible to have proper body function and performance. Proper flexibility can increase strength and power outputs in the gym and the real world. Muscles can create the most force and power when they have proper “length tension” relationships. This means that if the muscles are at their proper length they can create the most tension—in other words, the most strength and power. For example, if the tricep is overly tight and not at its optimum length, it will inhibit and weaken its antagonistic muscle, the bicep. With proper stretching and flexibility work, the tricep can be brought back to its optimal length, thus increasing the strength and power production of the bicep.

Types of Flexibility:

• Self-myofascial release

This type of stretching focuses on the fascial system of the body. When we get knots in our muscles we can’t just stretch the muscle because we would only be stretching the muscle on either side of the knot but the knot would remain. Imagine pulling on both ends of a rope that has a knot in the middle: the knot will get tighter. When we perform self-myofascial release techniques we use a foam roller or “stick” to gently apply force to the adhesion (knot), trying to bring the fibers back into an alignment that is aligned with the direction of the muscle and/or fascia. This type of flexibility work must be the first thing you do at the beginning of your workout session.

Click here to view a video of these types of stretches

Static stretching

This is the process of passively taking a muscle to the point of tension and holding the stretch for 20-40 seconds. Because static stretching greatly relaxes the muscles it inhibits the ability to produce full elastic energy potential and muscular strength. Therefore, since this type of stretching shuts down the nervous system it should be performed at the end of the workout.

The following two types of stretches should be done at the beginning of the workout, right after self-myofascial release. These stretches will excite the nervous system and get the participant ready to work out. You only need to do one of the two.

• Active stretching

The process of using opposing muscle groups to dynamically move the joint into a range of motion. For example, the participant lies on their back and tightens their quadriceps muscle (thigh muscle) while bringing their leg straight in the air. The tightening of the quadriceps muscle relaxes the opposing muscle, the hamstring, which then gets a better stretch while the leg is in the air. Perform this type of stretch for 5-10 reps and hold each stretch for 2-4 seconds.

Dynamic stretching

This type of stretching uses the force production of a muscle and the body’s momentum to take a joint through the full available range of motion. There are many different kinds of dynamic stretches, such as walking lunges with a deep knee drop, walking toe touches where one swings their leg in front of them like a football punter.

Stretching should be a critical part of one’s workout routine. It only requires 5-10 minutes of time and can make a world of difference.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 8, 2010 6:32 am

    This is the best magazine related to health & beauty i have ever read and found.I am really happy after reading it and it is very useful for the people who want to be fit and healthy.

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