Stretch Your Potential, Stretch Your Muscles

There are many opinions and theories on the subject of stretching as it pertains to working out or engaging in physically demanding activities. Most notable is the confusion that surrounds the question “Is it better to stretch before or after I workout, exercise or play a sport?”

There is no right answer—at least not yet—as to when you should stretch. There are many credible research studies that conclude there are benefits to stretching before or after you workout. Several people find it beneficial to stretch both before and after physically demanding activities. The common thread agreed upon is that stretching, regardless of when, provides benefits to developing and maintaining a healthy musculoskeletal system.

Stretching helps to improve the range of motion through your various joints. By stretching, you are training your muscles to begin and complete tasks through their proper and full range of motion, which in turn helps decrease the amount of stress on your joints. This can also help to improve and correct muscle imbalances, as well as your posture. Stretching aids in maintaining normal muscle functions; large muscles, stabilizers and small muscles can work more efficiently. The result is you having a healthy and dynamic body.

It is important to perform a warm-up activity prior to stretching. This prepares your muscle tissue for stretching, and it helps you to obtain all the benefits of stretching.  After your warm-up, you are ready to engage in stretching. The type of stretching that you are probably most familiar with is called static stretching.

Static stretching is when you perform a stretch by lengthening your muscle tissue in a slow, controlled manner until you reach the limit of your range of motion. Bending over to touch your toes and then holding it when you reach your limit is an example of static stretching; some people only need to reach to their shins to feel this stretch their muscles, while others can put their hands flat on the ground. Each person’s limits can differ from person to person and stretch to stretch.

The key to static stretching is to slowly ease into it until you reach a point where your muscles are tighter than they are while engaging in typical, everyday movements. Then, gradually increase the range of motion as you feel yourself loosen up. It is also important that you remember to breathe; this helps you to relax and increase the blood flow to your muscle tissue. Hold each stretch for about 20 seconds; then slowly ease out of the stretch as you allow your muscles to return to their natural resting position. It is ideal to perform two to five sets of each stretch with a 15 to 30 second rest between each stretch.[i]

As you gradually increase your range of motion and flexibility, stretching becomes more comfortable and feels more natural. Like most fitness related activities, as you continue to challenge your body stretching, you will progress a little each day. Incorporate stretching into your workout program, and though the visual evidence won’t be as apparent as the results you obtain from weight lifting or cardio, you will feel better and raise the ceiling of your fitness potential!

Come back every Thursday for more TOP TIPS, and check out REAL STORIES from Living Healthy every Monday!

Posted on June 14, 2012, in exercise, fitness, Health, Helpful, LA Fitness Blog - Living Healthy, LA Fitness Blog - Top Tips, la fitness reviews, LA Fitness Reviews - About, Top Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. barbara ferrara

    I am 66 years old and want to thank you for for helping me stay in such great physical condition and healthy for all these years. I started working out in 1987 because my friend at the office convinced me to spend my work bonus on a club membership (what a great friend). I am a realtor and my hours are limited so I usually do 2 or 3 classes while I’m there. I started as a “Step Class Junkie” and still am along with yoga, kick box and soomba to mention a few. I also jog a 5k when ever possible. I have been a member since you built the gym in 2004 (?) at Michigan and Conway in Orlando, Florida. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Stretching is splendid! Adam W. has done these members a service by instructing them on the specifics of a stretching routine. I would like to expand on his suggestions. For sport, studies such as the the Stretch Study by USA Track and Field, do not show direct positive correlations to increased performance and time stretching. However, if it keeps you injury free, “No Harm, No Foul,” eh? For group classes such as Zumba, Bootcamp, or other moderate to high intensity aerobic-strength activities, I would recommend a “dynamic,” warm-up that “excites” rather than “relaxes” the muscles. Movements like butt kicks, high kness, twisting lunges, the scorpion, skips, caraoka, jumping jacks, etc. put the joints and muscles through an exaggerated range of motion and at the same time prep them for more vigorous activities. I like the dynamic before, static after approach. Or try PNF or active-isolated stretching after a workout. Either way, we ajll know the cliche, “If the muscle is pliable, it’s way more reliable!”

  3. masa muscular

    Thanks, it’s something I was looking for my muscles 🙂

  4. Nice article. I prefer to stretch dynamic stretches as part of the warm-up and I start the cool down with some dynamic stretches followed by static stretches!

    Victoria

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