Stretching is an often overlooked aspect when it comes to strength training and other fitness-based goals.
Yet it brings so much more than just flexibility, so you should really consider adding some stretches into your workout regime if you want to stay healthy and injury-free.
What Type of Stretching is Most Recommended for General Fitness Purposes?
General fitness refers to the overall physical state of the body. It has five components: flexibility, muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, and body composition. In terms of flexibility, the type of stretching that helps you the most is static stretching. It is easily executed and has maximal benefits for all parts of fitness. It will help improve your overall range of motion and has additional health benefits that carry over to general fitness components.
There’s a reason why you don’t see an awful lot of bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts stretching out at the gym pre or post-workout.
For many, it’s seen as an unnecessary extra effort at best and a complete waste of time at worst.
But what if stretching could propel you towards your current fitness goals and skyrocket your success whether you’re lifting weights or working on your cardiovascular fitness?
What if stretching could take your gains to the next level and help you become the healthiest version of yourself?
The truth is that stretching for many people can prove to be the missing piece of the fitness puzzle.
Read on to find out just how important stretching is for the body, as well as all the different types of stretches you could benefit from.
Importance of Stretching
There is no doubt that stretching is important for growing a healthy body.
If you have a pet dog or cat, you’ll notice that after not moving for a period or right after waking up, they tend to stretch their bodies.
No one taught those pets how to stretch, and therefore, that alone proves that stretching is an instinct for all mammals, including us.
What Does Stretching Do to The Body?
Stretching puts tensions on muscles that are compressed for a period of not moving and enhances lubrication on joints by preventing them from “sticking” to each other due to being in a single position for far too long.
Having a well-stretched muscle and lubricated joint helps you deliver force properly to the appropriate parts ofthe body when you move or take a position.
In short: stretching improves your mobility and flexibility.
The more exertion you make and the more intense your workouts, the greater the need for stretching.
When you want to lift something or run, you need to stretch the hips, back, and legs most since those body parts will do most of the work.
When you reach for something or do more hand-heavy activities, stretching the wrists, arms, shoulder, and neck areas is more appropriate.
How Long Should a Stretch Be?
Some say ten counts are enough on each stretch. Others say that just a minute or two is fine. It will depend on the purpose of the stretch.
As a general rule, as long as you feel relieved after a stretch, then it’s served its purpose.
For athletes, a longer time is needed since the actions require numerous occasions of exerting various degrees of power.
Meanwhile, for yoga practitioners, stretching sessions can go on for hours.
Benefits of Stretching
Aside from improving mobility and flexibility, there are other benefits of stretching.
Whether you are an athlete or a recreational gym goer, stretching is undoubtedly beneficial:
1. Reduces the chance of injury from a poorly executed move or awkward positioning
2. Increases the chance of recovery from a slight bump, slip, or any minor injury that doesn’t involve the breaking of bones or tearing of ligaments
3. Dynamic stretching can boost physical performance, when you stick to it for a while.
4. Relieves mental stretch due to improved breathing patterns brought by proper stretching
Think of it like practising yoga.
Many people swear by yoga, so there’s must be something in it, right?
Types of Stretching
The types of stretching are based on how much effort is required.
Some activities require a certain muscle group more than others while some need only a slight motivation to keep the movement going, and some stretches are enough of a workout by themselves.
There are five types of stretching, and they are as follows:
Static or passive stretching is done while the whole body is at rest.
The goal here is to stretch a muscle group to its maximum capability, so holding a stretch for about 30 seconds is considered a static stretch.
Primarily, static stretching is performed as a cool-down after every vigorous activity or a warm-up after being immobile for days. Doing the splits would be an example of static stretching.
Active stretching is somehow similar to static stretching, but the manner it is executed is different.
During dynamic stretching, an amount of effort is executed on the muscle group while the opposite side stays relaxed. This is common in yoga exercises and the stretching is done for practitioners of martial arts.
An example is the ‘Warrior II’ yoga pose where the exerted muscle groups are the arms and shoulders and the relaxed parts are the back and chest muscles.
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching through movement.
It has fewer effects compared to static and active but it can be enough for some activities.
Most athletes do dynamic stretching to conserve energy on the main exercise rather than putting more effort into the stretch alone.
An example of a dynamic stretch is knee lifts where the hamstrings are engaged while moving.
Ballistic stretching carries more risk, since you apply a dynamic movement as you stretch a muscle group.
An example is a hamstring hold on one side while the toe reaches on the other in short bursts.
This type of stretching must be done only by gym experts, fitness fanatics, and extreme athletes only since the risk of injury are very high for normal applications only.
Another term of isometric stretching is PNF stretching, or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, stretching.
This is similar to a static stretch but the body remains isometric.
It’s widely considered to be one of the best forms of stretching for developing flexibility, and it’s often used in physical therapy as a form of rehabilitation after an injury.
For an analogy, it is like you are about to push on an object but it’s not moving while you push to stretch. Instead of an object, you need another person to act as resistance.
This type of stretching, however, needs a partner to fully execute properly.
This is mostly used in rehabilitation where one person is incapable of reaching his/her optimal movements while the other is assisting only.
Tools For Stretching
To help you get the most out of your stretching routines, here are some top recommended tools:
These elastic yet durable bands help you perform a stretch and help you work more deeply into it.
They can be very helpful for both static and dynamic stretches.
These things are small, rigid but comforting balls that are to be placed on a certain muscle group that is contracting while stretching is performed.
Lacrosse balls can add more force to the stretch, and relieve pain from knots.
Frequently Asked Questions About Stretching
What types of stretching are most beneficial?
The most beneficial types of stretching are dynamic and static stretching.
With static stretching, you can think of holding a yoga pose for anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds, and it’s the best type of stretching to do after a workout.
As for dynamic stretching, think more along the lines of movements that get the blood pumping and stretch out the muscles loosely before a workout.
Which type of stretching is recommended after a workout?
After a workout, your best bet is to go for a bout of static stretching.
Whereas dynamic stretching is intended to get the blood moving around the body and prepare you for an intense workout, static stretching takes the limbs to their extremities to relieve lactic acid build-up.
Since dynamic stretching doesn’t require you to fully stretch out your body, it isn’t as suitable for a post-workout cool down.
Should you stretch everyday?
While some people swear by their daily stretching routine, others believe it is something you can save for days when you workout.
What works best for you will depend on what your fitness goals are, since flexibility training requires a more disciplined approach than anything else including stretching.
But generally speaking it is entirely safe to stretch everyday, so long as you don’t feel a lot of pain when you do so.
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A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle
Have you ever felt sluggish after weeks of being a couch potato and then, one day, you decided to act upon your delayed promise to lose weight?
It’s typically a bad idea to depend on motivation to strike, since it comes and goes. Discipline is required if you are to make serious progress towards your health goals.
Believe it or not, stretching alone is a form of exercise.
It keeps your muscles and joints moving rather than being stagnant from relaxation and comfort.
Slowly, you’ll realize that stretching is a gateway to keep that inner drive going. It’s amazing to think that a proper and complete stretching session can help motivate you to get into shape.