When talking about staying fit, losing weight, gaining muscle or strength, the first thing we don’t think of is stretching. There are numerous other topics that we focus on before reaching this point. However, stretching is one of the best things we can do for our fitness levels and mobility issues.
Most people have some sort of nagging pain issue. Whether it be back pain, knee or joint, neck or hips. Most people who have these resilient pains also don’t stretch. If you set aside at least half an hour a week to perform a variety of stretches, most likely you will see some relief in your pain points. We can complete several fairly easy stretches to loosen up the muscles and the ligaments surrounding the muscles, which are most likely the problems that are causing the pain.
The most common types of soreness I hear come from the back, knees, and hips. Back pain may be at the top of the list since most people don’t take into account proper lifting techniques during their workouts and common daily tasks. By loosening up the back muscles, we will also be able to reduce overall back pain and increase our range of motion. These are two top factors in creating a sustainable fitness lifestyle.
Probably a tie with back pain. The knees are incredibly versatile and can withstand a lot of punishment. We shouldn’t take this lightly though, and we should do everything we can to keep this area strong but loose. Knee stretches are a great way to keep your lower body warmed up and flexible. This will help later on with pain, since stiff muscles are catalysts for pain generation.
Running is the most common exercise done in and out of the gym. It’s the most common type and can be done on a treadmill or outside in the fresh air. It’s very common for people to stretch before running. Beit the quads, calves, or knees. How many people stretch their hips? If we loosen up our hips, we will have better time walking and running later on. Many seniors have hip issues because they overuse the area when they’re younger and didn’t strengthen the muscles. Stretching the hips will also have a value today by increasing your ability to perform a variety of exercises with issues since tight hips can limit your mobility vastly.
You will hear many different ideas about what to do when stretching like hold for longer periods or don't bounce. These can be true but it all depends on the type of stretch you are performing. Most stretches can be effectively completed in 30 seconds according to some health journals and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Think of dynamic stretching as your pre-workout stretch. This type of movement helps to warm up the muscles and loosens up tight areas. The stretches you do will be dependent on your current fitness levels and experience.
Dynamic stretches are usually movement based hence their name, dynamic stretches. A few examples are: arm circles, torso twists, and air squats.
This type of stretch normally involves the are of the body you will be working on at that time. If you are doing upper body, you will focus on upper body stretches like around the worlds, band curls, or band pull aparts.
There are so many dynamic stretches to list, you should never get bored with them. Try to perform at least two per body part per workout.
Static stretches are mainly done at the end of the workout. You can perform them at the start or during, but because of their nature of being less intense, are best performed at the end when it’s time to cool the body down. Static stretching involves stretching and holding (static) the movement.
If you find there is a stretch that you are having a hard time performing, start off slow and gradually increase your range of motion until you can perform the exercise to its full capabilities. As long as you don’t have any current or previous injuries, your ability to increase the movement should be pain free.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
PNF is a loose base term known for stretches that are mainly used to enhance the flexibility of muscles and extend the elasticity of the tissue. PNF has been studied by years by health science researchers, and the majority agree that PNF increases athletic performances if done properly consistently over time. Many PNF stretches need the aid of a partner, either a trainer or physical therapist or someone who is familiar with the movements. They mainly involve the secondary person pushing or pulling the muscle which releases the tension. [Use PNF with a knowledgeable partner to prevent injury]
Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds up to 60 seconds. If you want to eventually become advanced at stretching and increase your range, hold the movement until the muscle begins to fatigue and starts to shake. Doing this will help to gradually break down the resistance in the muscle, which will lead to increased flexibility.
If you’re going for increasing your ROM, don’t go too far since we want to prevent injury, not cause it. If you begin to feel pain, retract to the opposite position and only continue if you are pain free.
Breath. Just like when you’re working out, make sure to control your breathing. Don’t hold your breath or you could increase your blood pressure and begin to see spots.
Here is a list of common stretches that can be performed in the gym or at home. Aim for two a day to quickly increase your flexibility and mobility.