A Proper Guide to Stretching

Stretch it Out- A Proper Guide to Stretching

We’ve all been told how important stretching is, but how much do you actually know about stretching? For example, when should you stretch, or when shouldn’t you stretch? Why is stretching important? And what exactly is “Ballistic” stretching?

To begin, stretching is important because it helps with both the prevention of injuries and treatment for injuries. The added flexibility has been proven to greatly reduce the risk of becoming injured. However, there is a chance of injury while stretching, if it is being done incorrectly. Here are some important terms to know before we get to the proper guide to stretching:

  • Ballistic stretching: bouncing; this form of stretching is when you stretch the body part to its maximum (during the bounce), and the muscle protects itself from over-stretching by contracting.
  • Static stretching: contrasting to ballistic stretching, static stretching is for muscle-lengthening and is achieved through slowly stretching to a maximum, or extreme, position, and holding.

Let’s get started; exercising after a workout is very important. When your muscles have been warmed, and your blood flow has increased, you should begin static stretching. Here’s how it should happen:

  1. Extend a joint out to its end-range slowly.
  2. You should begin to feel a pulling sensation- this should not be a painful feeling.
  3. Hold this position between 15 and 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat with desired muscles.

With static stretching, you should be done after you are finished with your cool-down. To see any benefits, you should hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. However, begin at the 15-second mark, and work your way up. Over time, you can deepen your stretches when you no longer feel a deep stretch. Never stretch past where you feel a pull, as that can also result in injury. Go to where you can feel a stretch, and stay there.

While the debate on bouncing while stretching is out, ballistic stretches can be very beneficial for a pre-workout. While you will want to get your blood flow moving before any type of stretching, ballistics are great for getting your muscles moving and alert. While these types of stretching should be used by those with experience and a stretching routine, here are the fundamentals:

  1. Extend a joint out to its maximum quickly (i.e. bounce, using your body’s momentum, down to touch your toes and back up again).
  2. Immediately go back to a relaxed, non-stretching state.
  3. Repeat with desired muscles.

 

That’s about it! While this is a very brief overview, it’s a start!

Remember to never stretch when your muscles are cold. Stretching cold muscles can result in injuring the tissue, or tendons and ligaments. And you should also remember to relax while stretching. This is a time to slow your breathing, forget about what’s going on at work, and calm your mind. Don’t jump into serious stretching; consult your doctor or physician before starting a stretching program.