Rules for Safe Stretching
Stretching falls into two main categories: - Static stretches and Dynamic stretches both of which are subdivided further.
Static stretching includes Passive assisted stretching, Active stretching, PNF stretching and Isometric stretching.
Dynamic stretching includes Ballistic stretching, Active Isolated stretching and Resistance stretching.
There is no such thing as a good or bad stretch but as with most activities there are certain guidelines to follow to ensure that they are safe. Some stretches can be extremely dangerous and harmful if not done correctly particularly dynamic stretches, so it is important to follow certain rules to maximise the benefits.
Warm up prior to stretching – this may sound counterintuitive if you are using stretching as a warmup to exercise, but trying to stretch a muscle that has not been warmed up is like trying to stretch an old and dry rubber band; they may snap. Gently performing a similar action to that of the activity you are going to take part in will increase the blood flow and temperature of the muscle. For example, in dancing a few Cha Cha basics will start to increase the heart rate and blood circulation, warming up the body and tissues.
Stretch before and after exercise – it is essential to stretch before and after exercise. Stretching after exercise has a whole different purpose to stretching before exercise. Stretching before exercise helps prevent injury by lengthening the muscles and tendons which will increase our range of movement.The purpose of stretching after exercise is to aid the repair and recovery of the muscles and tendons. Post exercise stretching helps to remove lactic acid and prevent delayed muscle soreness.
Stretch only to the point of tension – stretching is not an activity that is meant to be painful; it should feel pleasurable and relaxing. When muscles are stretched to the point of pain the bodies defence mechanism, the stretch reflex, kicks in. This is our safety measure to prevent damage occurring. It works by contracting the tissues to prevent them from being stretched, so to avoid the stretch reflex and consequent pain never take the stretch beyond what is comfortable. Stretch all major muscle groups – it is vitally important to pay attention to all major muscle groups in the body. Just because a particular sport may place a lot of emphasis on the legs, for example dancing, that doesn’t mean that the muscles of the upper body should be ignored. Muscles of the abdomen and torso for instance, play a vital role in stability and balance so it is important to also keep them supple and flexible.
Stretch gently and slowly – this helps to relax the muscles which in turn makes stretching more beneficial. It also helps to avoid muscle tears and strains that can be caused by rapid jerky movements.
Breathe slowly and easily – many people unconsciously hold their breath whilst stretching, in turn causing the muscles to be tense and difficult to stretch. Breathe into the stretch to help the muscles to relax. You will find that the muscle will stretch further when it is relaxed plus it will increase the flow of blood and valuable nutrients to the muscles.
Stretching is very beneficial when used correctly but stretching is just one very important aspect in reducing the risk of injury and improving athletic performance. The best results are achieved when stretching is combined with other injury reduction techniques such as massage and strengthening or conditioning exercises.
For more information on stretching or massage feel free to contact me. 07805622879