Simple rules to stretch
If you know these simple rules, you can apply it to any movable joint in your body. You don’t need tons of charts and the yoga classes or anything else.
Relax the muscles
Firstly you need to relax the muscles in the area that you’re stretching. You don’t want the muscles tight because you want those muscles nice and loose. You’re not trying to stretch the muscle; you’re trying to stretch the joint underneath the muscle. If the muscle that connects the two bones of the joint tightens up, the joint will just shut and even though you’re pulling on it, you can’t open it up to get the movement on the joint. You’re just doing a tug-of-war on the muscle.
‘No pain no gain’ rule does not hold when it comes to stretching. What do you think happens when you stretch so hard that it hurts? The muscles around the area are tightening up to try the guard the joint and you’re breaking rule number one. Now you should feel stretching but it shouldn’t hurt and for some people, that’s hard to explain. You don’t want to be tearing yourself up but you definitely want to feel a good stretch in there.
You have to move slowly into the stretch and you need to move slowly out of the stretch. Your body has a reflex and when the joint moves quickly, your body creates a reflex that tightens up the muscles. It’s a protective mechanism. It’s called the stretch reflex. This reflex is there for a reason. If you were to trip and fall down, you don’t have time to think. Your body instantly tightens up to protect you. But if you’re stretching and you’re doing quick bouncy movements, your muscles tighten up and you again break rule number one.
Hold your stretch
You need to hold the stretch. Longer is better but at least at least a minimum of 10 to 15 seconds per repetition.
You can apply these rules to any movable joint in your body. Movement is vital to nice healthy joints and is what prevents arthritis. Your age has nothing to do with your flexibility. It’s an inactivity and conditioning issue. As long as you stretch everyday on a regular basis, you’ll stay nice and mobile your whole life.
Always warm up before your stretch. If people think that stretch is part of the warm-up then that’s wrong. There are three things you need to do. Number one is warm-up, then you do your workout and then you cool down with your stretching. When you’re cold, let’s say firstly morning, you get up you can stretch but you just have to be very careful and move very slowly because your ligaments and tendons inside your joints have properties similar to a stick of chewing-gum.
You take a stick of chewing-gum and put it the freezer, take it out and then bend it. What happens? It snaps. Now put the stick of chewing-gum in warm oven for a couple minutes and pull it out. Now it’s nice and pliable. Think of your joints like that. You jump up on a cold day and you start doing some heavy stretching. Researchers actually found that you get micro-tears in the fibers and they can actually set you up for an injury.
So, when you’re really cold and you haven’t worked out, you want to just gently go through a range of motion. Get some of the blood pumping through the joints and the muscles to get your body ready to work. Then you bring up your workload, you do your workout and then when you’re all warmed up, you stretch as you cool down. That’s the ideal situation. You can stretch anywhere and anytime but you just need to be careful when you are cold.