Unfortunately, when someone starts working out, stretching is the last thing they want to do. So exactly how important is stretching? And how should stretching be done?
Regular stretching helps you become more flexible, and being flexible means you are able to move your joints through the full range.
While being flexible is good- as it would mean your muscles are not too tight- preventing injury, on the flip side being too flexible would mean that your muscle are weak and elongated. We need to find the right balance between the two.
How should you be stretching?
Before and after a workout you would have been told by millions of people to stretch or warm up or cool down. What exactly is this?
It is important to warm up before exercise because we want to warm the muscle up for what they will be going through. Does this mean you stretch here?
Absolutely not, this is the biggest misconception people have. You need to be doing dynamic stretching (or more accurately a warm up), which is basically the same exercise that you will be doing, but at much lower intensity. So for example you are going to run for half an hour, the first 5 mins or 10 mins you need to warm up the muscle by brisk walking. If you are lifting weight, then you should be lifting about 30% of the intended weight for warm up first.
Studies have shown that by stretching a muscle prior to exercise reduces the nerve conductivity to that muscle, making it more prone to injury. So avoid any static stretching before exercise.
Here is when you do your static stretching. It is important to stretch all the major muscle groups.
Here are some examples for stretching. Ofcourse, stretching will be different for different sports, but these cover most muscle groups. Remember to hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Benefits of stretching
- Corrects the posture by lengthening tight muscles
- Decrease in injury long term
- Increases blood and nutrients to the muscles
- Helps you to relax
If you have an injury or muscle imbalances, it is best to seek help from your physiotherapist to assess which muscles are tight, and which are weak. Stretching and strengthening opposing muscle groups is often very important to achieve the right body balance.