Article by John Miller
What Are The Best Stretching Exercises?
How To Stretch Properly. When To Do What Stretch.
Did you know that vigorous exercise shortens your muscles? Stretching exercises encourage lengthening your muscles and their associated tendons to normalise your muscle length and tension ratio.
Muscles shorten during exercise, from general postural habits and ageing and disuse. If you only use a small amount of your muscle length range, your muscle will adapt over time and shorten to that length, under the “use it or lose it” premise that your body naturally attunes itself.
Do Stretching Exercises Help?
By lengthening your muscles via stretching, you promote flexibility and your ability to have a full range of motion about your joints.
Studies comparing a warm-up that includes static stretching with a warm-up that does not include static stretching have shown that although pre-exercise static stretching does improve flexibility, it does not appear to prevent injury during exercise. Therefore, the pre-exercise stretching technique must be an active stretch style to prepare you for high muscle activity during your sport rather than solely for tissue elongation.
The warm-up and dynamic stretching program prepare you for a sport that appears to have the most beneficial effects.
How To Stretch Properly?
The stretches you perform vary depending on whether you are preparing for exercise, recovering from training, or rehabilitating from injury. It is essential to stretch your muscles only when they are warm, as cold muscles are more likely to tear. While to is always best to attain specific professional advice for your flexibility needs, here are some general stretching guidelines.
What Stretches Should You Do Before Exercise?
Before you exercise, it is a good idea to warm up your muscles to prepare you for the rigours of exercise. You could think of warming up like a car engine; you want to warm it up before your roar down the street.
Your stretching exercises should be modified by increasing their speed and power in a progressively graduated order that prepares you for your sport’s skills and muscle demands or chosen exercise session. The ideal pre-exercise stretching program includes a warm-up and a light 5-minute jog until you feel warmth in your muscles. Then, you can perform some slow, sustained static stretches, ideally for 20 to 30 seconds.
By the end of your warm-up, you should perform plyometric or bounce-style exercises that replicate your sport’s requirements.
Stretching After Exercise
Use static stretches rather than bouncing-style stretches. An ideal time to do most of your static stretching is after exercise, immediately after your post-exercise cool-down. Allow around 5 to 10 minutes to stretch after a workout, and concentrate on the muscles you have just exercised. Stretching at this time helps restore your muscles to their resting length and prepare them for your next exercise session. In contrast, cool-down stretches improve your muscle length and joint flexibility, which helps you to improve sporting or athletic performance.
A light static stretching routine (stretching a muscle and holding it in this position without discomfort for 20-30 seconds) can be performed at the end of a warm-up before undertaking a more vigorous activity. Be sure to stretch each muscle group you will use in your chosen activity 2 to 3 times.
Corrective Or Rehabilitation Stretching
Specific stretching for target muscles that your physiotherapist has identified should be performed daily or as directed by your therapist using the techniques that they feel will assist you in reaching your flexibility goals. Warming up for a dedicated stretching session might involve 2 to 3 minutes of jogging or doing your favourite exercise at low intensity for 5 minutes. Raising a light sweat will indicate the warming of your muscle tissue.
Alternatively, attending a yoga class is an enjoyable way to contribute to the flexibility part of your fitness programme.
Stretching Exercise Styles
Static stretching is considered the safest method of stretching. A static stretch should be held for 20 to 30 seconds at a point where you can feel the stretch but do not experience any discomfort. If you feel pain, ease back on the stretch. Do not bounce when holding the stretch.
Dynamic or Ballistic Stretching
Ballistic stretching is performed at speed and prescribed by your sports physiotherapist or elite sports coach. They are often used as a part of your warm-up for sport or training.
Dynamic stretches involve muscle movements that move a joint through the full range of motion required in your chosen sport or activity. For example, if your chosen activity requires sudden bursts of power, such as jumping or sudden acceleration, then specific ballistic stretches under the direction of your physiotherapist or coach may be advised as a part of your warm-up.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF stretching involves a component of stretch – muscle contraction – and further stretch. This process is usually repeated several times and uses a trick on the muscle spindle reflex to help elongate your muscles
The technique of PNF stretching was first developed as a muscle therapy but is now used by athletes to enhance flexibility. Physiotherapists often use PNF stretching. More information can be sought by seeking their advice in your situation.
Stretching Exercises – Summary
Stretching can be used as a corrective, preventative and recovery strategy. More specific stretching advice can be sought from your physiotherapist.
Article by John Miller
Does Warming Up Unlock Performance?
Starting your fitness routine with a thorough warm-up is crucial. It enhances flexibility, betters performance, and reduces the likelihood of injuries. Far from being an optional extra, it's a fundamental aspect of any effective exercise regimen.
Stretching: An Approach to Injury Prevention
Research from the British Medical Journal highlights the selective benefits of stretching. It's not a catch-all for injury prevention but it plays a significant role in warding off soft tissue injuries common in both elite sports and recreational activities. A strategic warm-up can notably decrease the risk of sustaining muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries.
The Joy of Exercise: Minimising Post-Workout Soreness
One of the unsung benefits of warming up is its ability to reduce post-exercise soreness. This reduction in discomfort contributes to a more enjoyable and consistent exercise routine, encouraging long-term fitness and health.
Dynamics of an Effective Warm-Up
Effective warming up is a dynamic process. It's about progressively preparing your body for the session ahead. A graduated series of exercises that mimic the upcoming activity can significantly minimise injury risks and elevate your readiness for peak performance.
Tailored Warm-Up for Tailored Needs
The personalisation of your warm-up routine can't be overstated. Each sport and activity demands specific preparations, and this is where professional input from a physiotherapist becomes invaluable. A targeted warm-up plan can enhance the efficacy of your routine and ensure it's perfectly aligned with your physical requirements.
Conclusion: The Essential Prelude to Peak Performance
In conclusion, warming up is not just a preliminary step; it's an essential prelude to any physical activity. It sets the tone for a safer, more efficient workout or sporting session, ensuring that your body is primed and ready to take on the challenges ahead. By adopting a comprehensive warm-up routine, you're investing in your body's ability to perform optimally and recover swiftly. Remember, the time spent warming up is never wasted; it's an investment in your health, performance, and longevity in your chosen physical pursuits. So, embrace the warm-up as an integral part of your exercise ritual, and step into your workouts with confidence and the assurance that you are well-prepared to perform at your best.