The Truth about Stretching

How do you achieve and maintain your muscles at their ideal length so that you can move easily and freely? For flexibility, stretching is important to reach this goal.

Truth About Stretching

Right now there is growing evidence that supports stretching for the purpose of improving range of motion and joint function and enhancing muscle performance, as well as substantial “real-life” reports to support its role in preventing injuries. Here are some easy to follow guidelines on how to stretch:

-Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat up to four repetitions.
-Perform at least one stretch for each major muscle group.
-Stretch at least two to three times a week, preferably every day.
-Stretch to the point of discomfort but not beyond.
-Don’t hold your breath while stretching.

An important concept to understand when it comes to stretching is the stretch flex mechanism. This mechanism defends against overstretching and tearing and signals the muscle to shorten and tighten when stimulated. An example of the stretch reflex: When your doctor taps your knee with a little hammer and your leg kicks up. To avoid stimulating the stretch flex, never stretch to an extreme length or stretch quickly as in a bouncing movement.

To date, most stretching studies have looked at traditional stretching. Other varieties of stretching show some promise in the areas of preventing injuries and easing muscle soreness. But no major studies that we know of have compared the various stretching methods head to head. In fact, more and more studies show that there isn’t necessarily one best way for all people because we each have different body types, experience, and goals. Experiment with a variety of stretching methods, and find out which stretches feel most comfortable to you. You may even want to combine a number of stretching methods. You may find for example, that you enjoy doing Active isolated stretches for your hamstrings (rear thigh muscles) but traditional stretching for your shoulders.

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  • Greg says:

    There are also some studies that show that stretching does not achieve what it is promising. The german website has quite a lot of information on this.

    The problem is that most people don’t realise how quickly the stretch flex mechanism sets in. And therefore traditional stretching gives the impression to change something but mostly things stay the same.

    Much reduction in muscle length e.g. in office workers comes from a reduced ranged of movement. The body concludes it is not necessary to provide all this length if ‘no-one’ is using it. This in turn leads to adapted and strenuous movements habits which in usually stay, even if there is a bit of muscle length gained from stretching. Thus, for prevention and reducing strain on joints it is best to work on the habits first.

    In order to deal with habits I’d recommend the Alexander Technique which teaches to become aware where we add unnecessary limitations and strain to our organism. Then a practical way of stopping tightness and moving into more length can be learnt in lessons.

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