The act of stretching has not only become an art form but also has many philosophies and theories to go along with it. To make life easier, here are some simple guidelines to follow. These guidelines will greatly enhance your physical fitness.
The most common mistake made when stretching is not properly warming up! Many think that stretching is a warm up and it simply is not! Warming up refers to raising the core temperature of your body.
It is very important to perform a general warm-up before you stretch. It is not a good idea to stretch before your muscles are warm. Cold stretching (no warm-up), on the other hand, can greatly increase your risk of injury! Warming will do more than just loosen stiff muscles; when done properly, it can actually improve performance.
In general, the fewer muscles you try to stretch at once, the better. For example, if you want to stretch your hamstrings you are better off trying to stretch one hamstring instead of both hamstrings at the same time. When you isolate a muscle, you experience less resistance from other muscle groups. This is turn gives you greater control over the stretch and allows you to easily change its intensity.
One thing many people seem to disagree about is how long to hold a passive stretch. The truth is that no one really knows just how long is best. A good common ground seems to be about 20 seconds.
Another factor to achieve the ideal stretch is taking slow, relaxed breaths. Some experts recommend increasing the intensity of the stretch only when exhaling. Proper breathing helps to relax the body, increases blood flow throughout the body, and helps to remove lactic acid and other by-products of exercise.
Here are just some of the benefits of proper stretching:
- enhanced physical fitness
- enhanced ability to perform skilled movements
- increased mental and physical relaxation
- enhanced development of body awareness
- reduced risk of injury
- reduced muscular soreness
- reduced muscular tension
Start stretching today and remember: Don’t Stretch til You Sweat!