Why Is It Important To Stretch? Ahhhhhh… That felt good. Stretching, has always been a vital component in workout plans whether you are playing football in the playground, or competing in an international level sporting event. You’ve probably heard your PE teacher or coach telling you to stretch before and after any type of exercise.

Have you wondered why stretching is so important? Probably the most common reason you’ve heard about stretching is that it prevents injuries. And while that is true, stretching is also important for many more reasons.

Before we get into ‘how to stretch’, it’s also probably good to know the key benefits of stretching, so you’d be more motivated to dedicate a few minutes before and after your exercise routine to stretch.

Benefits of Stretching

Stretching increases your strength

Muscle strength is increased with each stretch as it expands your range of motion. Stretching also minimizes DOMs – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. You will feel less sore the following day if you’ve done some form of stretching right after your exercise. This will help you return to the gym much sooner, which results in faster muscle growth.

Stretching increases muscle growth

A study conducted in 1993 in the ‘Journal of Applied Physiology’, University of Texas discovered that stretching enhances muscle growth. The study was conducted on 26 quails that had their wings stretched out over 38 days. The result of the experiment showed that birds had an increase of 318 percent in muscle mass compared to birds with non-stretched wings.

Stretching improves circulation and flexibility

Flexibility is the most immediate positive signs of stretching. Flexibility is the key to any exercise as it increases the fluidity of the muscles, resulting in increase of movement. Stretching increases the flexibility of the muscle that lengthens your ligaments thus avoiding sprains and soft tissue injury. Circulation also improves, as your blood flow becomes smoother and faster, bringing much needed nourishment to your muscles. This action helps muscle recovery and joint injuries

Stretching helps with lower back pain

With our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, more and more people now suffer from chronic lower back pain. By stretching, this alleviates pain and discomfort. All the various muscle groups in the body contribute to your body’s posture and by stretching, not only do you reduce back injuries, you also enable your body to gain better posture. Read more about stretching exercises to ease back pain and discomfort.

Methods on How to Stretch

There are also several methods of how to stretch as well. Depending on what you want to achieve, you can employ the various stretching methods to your workout schedule.

According to Doug Lawrenson, writer for Muscle & Strength magazine, there are seven types of common stretching methods which are Dynamic, Ballistic, active, static, passive, isometric and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).

Isometric and PNF stretches are commonly adopted by Weight lifters and body builders.

How do these stretches help for muscle growth?

You know the usual. Just working on my stretch! Well, in the case of the isometric stretch, resistance is applied to the body and you flex your muscles to oppose this resistance without moving any parts of your body.

Here are some types of isometric stretching that can increase muscle growth:

Type 1: Chest

Position yourself with your back facing a bar or column. Place the elbow of your flexed arm against the bar. Turn your body the opposite direction. Flex your chest and press your arms further against the resistance.

Type 2: Calves

Get into a lunge position in front of a wall. Place your arms against the wall, palms flat, heel to the floor. Move your hip forward, fully extending your rear leg. Flex the ball of your feel while at the same time pushing again the force to keep the rear heel flat on the floor.

Type 3: Hamstrings

Get into a standing position. Put one foot on the bar. Extend your leg completely. Flex your hamstrings and simultaneously press your heels for resistance.

With the PNF method, you will apply resistance against a stationary object, relaxing the resistance in order to increase the depth of the stretch and then re-apply resistance again.

Isometric and PNF stretching is an exercise on its own and is recommended to be done if you are a pro-athlete or with proper supervision from a health instructor or gym instructor. People who are already active and have already achieved a good amount of body flexibility should only do these exercises.

For the average person, there are many other ways on how to stretch to promote muscle growth and increase your overall fitness level. These stretches can be done for those at the beginner to intermediate levels of fitness.

How to Stretch For the Average Person

Safety First

Experts recommend doing major stretches after a workout or run. This will enable you to identify which muscle groups require more attention. Light activity for 5 to 10 minutes is a much better warm up before a workout or run. Find a flat surface as your stretching area. Keep in mind to hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. If there is a body part that experiences pain or discomfort, it will be good to repeat the stretch again.

Stretches for Leg Muscles

Calf Stretch

Find a wall and standing at arm’s length, place your left foot behind your right foot. Bend your right foot forward, whilst keeping the left knee straight, with the left knee always on the floor. Keep this position for 30 seconds and repeat by switching your legs.

Hamstring Stretch

Lie flat on the ground at the corner of a wall. Raise your right leg, resting your right heel on the wall. Your knee should be slightly bent. Slowly straighten your leg till you feel a stretch, hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Quadriceps stretch

Stand near a wall and grasp your right ankle, pulling your heel close to your back till you feel a stretch. Do not sag your stomach muscles- keep it tight. Remember to keep both your knees close together. Again, hold for 30 seconds, switch and repeat with the other leg.

Stretches for Hip & Back Muscles

Stretching your hip is very important. Not only does it help you run faster, it also ensures you have proper posture.

Hip Flexors

Kneel on your right knee, placing your left foot in front of you. Bend your left knee and place your left hand on your left knee for support. Place your right hand on your right hip, back straight and stomach muscles tight. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your right thigh. Hold this for 30 seconds, switch leg and repeat.

ITB Stretch

The iliotibial band runs along the outside of your knee, thigh and hip. Stand near a wall or chair if needed, crossing your left leg over your right leg at your ankles. Extend your left arm over your head and reach to the right side of your body. You should feel a stretch along your left hip. Switch sides and repeat after 30 seconds.

Knee to Chest Stretch

This stretch is for your lower back. Lie on your back on a flat surface. Gently pull one knee towards your chest till you can feel a stretch on your lower back. The other leg should be relaxed. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat with you other leg.

Stretches for Shoulders and Neck

Shoulder Stretch

Bring your right arm across your body whilst holding it with your right arm. Hold for 30 seconds and switch arms.

Neck Stretch

Standing upright, gently tilt your head downward with your right hand. You will feel a stretch forming along the back of your neck. Hold the position for 30 seconds.

These are some of the basic methods on how to stretch properly that you can do after each workout in order to help muscle growth, increase your performance, avoid any onset injuries and increase your strength. Proper post workout care is as essential as eating right when it comes to performing well in any sport you do.

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