The dreaded stretching – ‘why is it so important?’, ‘how do I know what kind of stretching to do?’ and ‘when to do it?’. These are questions I get asked every day multiple times per day.
Regular stretching is just as important as regular exercise. If you’re like me, you probably try to neglect this aspect of your fitness regime whenever possible, because let’s face it, it can be really boring, although stretching has major benefits. Hopefully these reasons will inspire you to make it part of your schedule (and mine too!).
Here are some of the main benefits of stretching:
For Your Body
- Helps improve flexibility (increases your range of motion)
- Assists in correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position (because of so much time at our computers, many of us have tight chest muscles which pulls the shoulders and head forward, leaving us with a hunched shoulder look)
- Potential to decrease injury by preparing muscles for work before activity and cooling them down after activity
- Increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles, thereby possibly reducing muscle soreness
For Your Mind
- Even a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) of stretching can calm the mind, provide a mental break, and give your body a chance to recharge (This is something we all need, even if we don’t believe it!)
What I recommend to my patients is to choose 3-4 stretches that target the most important ‘day-to-day’ muscles and to carry them out at least once per day. The areas I recommend that are stretched daily are the neck, the lower back, the gluts and the calfs. These are the areas which withstand the most load and work the hardest day to day to keep us upright and moving.
If my patients are carrying out a specific sport I take this into account and recommend further stretching suitable for them. If you would like advice on this email me directly for advice on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are carrying out a specific sport or exercise routine definitely stretch before you begin and definitely stretch after you finish, bit remember your stretching should be planned according to the exercise you are carrying out.
Different Types of Stretching
Its easy really, if you are doing a dynamic sport your stretching must be dynamic and if you’re doing a slower sport static stretching is adequate.
We have two types of fibres which make up our muscles – fast twitch fibres which are responsible for sudden and quick bouts of movement, and slow twitch fibres which are responsible to slow but long episodes of movement. These fibres need to be stretched according to how they will be used.
Lets use some examples – If my training session is going to include fast movements like burpees, kettle bell swings, running, box jumps etc. I would need some dynamic stretching prior to starting in order to get those fast twitch fibres ready to work! If my session is going to include slow and controlled squats, hamstring curls, walking etc. I would be fine to do some static stretching to prepare my muscles and joints. If I will be doing a mix of both static and dynamic movements I would need to plan my stretching accordingly and do a mix of both static stretches to start with and then some dynamic stretches too. Its simple really! If you are unsure of which exercises are considered to be static and which are dynamic email me and ask email@example.com.
Post-workout stretching should be more gentle, slow and static to allow you muscles to cool down!