Is Stretching Really Necessary?
Do you stretch before exercising? Health experts seem to agree that stretching improves muscle’s flexibility and helps prevent injury. It may also increase your range of motion as well as joint elasticity.
This form of physical exercise is recommended before and after strength training or cardio. It can also be mixed with your regular exercises. For example, if you’re training your chest and back on the same day, do some stretching before going from one muscle group to another. This will reduce your risk of injury and prepare your muscles for a challenging workout.
How Does Stretching Work?
Stretching is one of the most popular types of exercise. It’s safe for people of all ages and fitness levels, and can be easily adjusted to your individual needs. Physical therapists use this method for pain relief.
While stretching is not mandatory before working out, it definitely helps. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, this form of exercise keeps your muscles and joints flexible, improves muscle tone, and relieves cramps. It also helps you move better and improves posture. If you suffer from back pain, do a few stretching exercises every day.
From children to pro athletes, seniors, and pregnant women, everyone can benefit from stretching. This gentle form of exercise is useful for both injury prevention and muscle flexibility. Researchers have found that it may also enhance athletic performance and speed up recovery. Stretching is essential to runners, bodybuilders, and endurance athletes because it helps prevent tears and warms up the muscles.
Types of Stretching
There are different types of stretching, and each has unique benefits. Depending on your goals, you can try:
- Dynamic stretching
- Ballistic stretching
- Isometric stretching
- Active stretching
- Passive stretching
- PNF stretching
- Static stretching
Ballistic stretching helps your body move beyond its normal range of motion. Dynamic stretches increases reach and speed of movement. It usually involves arm swings, leg swings, and torso twists. Active stretches use the strength of your agonist muscles to help them relax. These exercises are difficult to hold for more than 10 seconds. They are commonly used in yoga and pilates. Passive stretching relieves muscle spasms after injury. It may also reduce muscle soreness and fatigue post workout. Other types of stretching increase static-passive flexibility and help develop strength in the tensed muscles.
Stretching exercises target all muscles groups. Some focus on your quads and adductors. Some are recommended for arm and shoulder training. Others hit your calves and knee flexors. These simple moves increase blood flow to the muscles and help you develop the flexibility needed for specific activities without compromising joint stability.
If you’re not an athlete, it’s enough to do a few stretches daily. Focus on the major muscle groups such as your hips, thighs, neck, shoulders, and back. Strive for symmetry and hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Those who play sports should do stretches tailored for the type of activity performed. If you play tennis, for example, you can develop shoulder strains. To prevent this, do stretching exercises targeting your shoulders and arm muscles.