Don't Forget To Stretch
by Heath Daigle

Misconceptions and conflicting research reports cloud most stretching recommendations. Stretching has been promoted for years as an integral part of fitness programs to decrease the risk of injury, relieve pain associated with "stiffness", and improve sport performance.

Most people make the mistake of trying to stretch cold muscles. By cold muscle, I mean a muscle that has been in the sedentary state for a long period of time. Think of your muscle as a rubber band. Stretch a cold rubber band and what happens, it snaps or breaks. The same occurs with your muscles. Muscles should first be warmed up, with a 5-10 minute walk or jog. This warm-up increases blood flow to the muscles by elevating the overall heart rate. Warm (active) muscles are stretched much more effectively after a warm-up.

The safest stretch is known as a static stretch. A static stretch is held constant (no bouncing) for 15-30 seconds. Most trainers now believe ballistic stretching (i.e., bouncing) is dangerous, because of the chance of pulling or ripping a muscle.

Another benefit of stretching is an increased range of motion. One who includes an active warm-up period prior to stretching will obtain a greater range of motion. Being able to stretch a muscle further than before gives the muscle a better workout. Also, stretching helps to tone the muscles much faster. (i.e. yoga,pilates)

After the warm-up, and preliminary stretch comes your workout. This is a time when the real stretching begins. Stretching the desired muscle before, during and after sets brings more blood the site, thus a better burn.

Things to Remember

a. A warm-up increases the effectiveness of stretching to increase range of motion, and all warm-ups are likely to prevent injury.
b. Although one 30-second stretch per muscle group is sufficient to increase range of motion in most healthy people, it is likely that longer periods or more repetitions are more effective for different people, injuries, and/or specific muscle groups.
c. An individual must decide which stretching routine is best for his/her lifestyle and goals.


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