What Type of Stretching is Most Recommended for General Fitness Purposes?
General fitness refers to the overall fitness 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 added health benefits that carry over to the other components of general fitness.
Importance of Stretching
There is no doubt that stretching is important that you even do it subconsciously. 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 at least, 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 in delivering force properly to the appropriate parts of the body when you move or take a position. In short, stretching improves your mobility and flexibility.
As you are applying more rigorous activities, you will need the appropriate stretch needed. When you want to lift something or run, you need to stretch the hips, back, and legs the most since those body parts will do most of the work when the activity will be done.
When you are reaching for something or do more hand activities, stretching the wrists, arms, shoulder, and neck areas is more appropriate.
How Long Should a Stretch Be?
Some say 10 counts are enough on each stretch. Some also say that a minute or two is necessary. It will depend on the purpose of the stretch. If you are a regular person, as long as you are relieved, that stretch is enough. For athletes, a longer time is needed since the actions require numerous occasions of exerting various degrees of power. Meanwhile, for yoga practitioners, stretching can go for hours.
Benefits of Stretching
Aside from improving mobility and flexibility, there are other benefits of stretching. Whether you are an athlete or a normal person, 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 breaking of bones or tearing of ligaments
3. Increases reaction time
4. Relieves mental stretch due to improved breathing patterns brought by proper stretching
5. Reduces incidents of muscles cramp or any sudden exhaustion or fatigue of a body part due to performing a movement
Think of it as a mini-version of yoga. Whatever the benefits of practicing yoga, you will also get, even the minimum amount.
Types of Stretching
The types of stretching are based on how the effort is dedicated. 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 being the only fitness option. There are 5 types of stretching and here are the following:
Static stretching is done while the whole body is at rest. Its goal is to stretch a muscle group to its maximum capability. Holding a stretching for about 30 seconds is considered a static stretch.
Mostly, static stretching is performed as a cool-down after every vigorous activity or a warm-up after being immobile for days. An example of which is a split.
Active stretching is somehow similar to static stretching but the manner it is executed is different. During active 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 area.
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching by applying 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 which is knee lifts where hamstrings are being engaged while moving.
Ballistic stretching is a riskier form wherein as you stretch a muscle group, you also apply a dynamic movement. An example is a hamstring hold on one side while the toe reaching 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, or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, stretching. This is similar to a static stretch but the body remains isometric.
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, however, needs a partner to fully execute properly. An example of which is a hamstring stretch in which one lies on his/her back with his/her right leg extended upward while the partner holds his/her ankle and have the leg pressed to his/her head to engage the hamstring. 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 increase your stretching routines, here are recommended tools:
These elastic yet durable bands help you perform a stretch and encourage more to apply more force. It can be very helpful in static and dynamic exercises.
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. It aids in adding concentrated force.
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 hard to depend on motivation to visit you just to push you in making that healthy step. However, if discipline is not being applied, you won’t be able to move forward.
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 and to yearn for more exercise that enhances your body. It’s amazing to think that a proper and complete stretching session can help motivate you into getting in shape.