So often we think that stretching is a waste of time and only those who wish to do light workouts should try it. Usually to build muscle and strength we go for weightlifting and heavy workouts we pay little emphasis on breathing and cardio workouts
Benefits of stretching
Increase your strength
Stretching should become a part of your workout because it will indirectly help to increase muscular strength by expanding your range of motion, which will transfer to your weightlifting. When lifting over a greater movement pattern, more muscle fibers are recruited, thus making your muscles stronger.
Another way stretching helps is by decreasing your DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness). This means that you’ll be able to return to the gym for your next session sooner, resulting in faster muscle growth.
Improves your daily performance
Stretching will not only help to improve your performance in sports, but your everyday life as well. People who are very stiff have an increased chance of developing joint pain later in life and aren’t able to function at the same capacity as someone who is more limber.
Also, in a great number of sports, agility is a key component of top performance. Whether it is being quick on your feet or having the ability to maneuver around an opponent, stretching will improve your fitness level.
types of stretching
There are two main types of stretching exercises: active (also known as dynamic) and passive. Both have numerous benefits; to be fully rewarded, you should include both in your training.
Active stretching is done by working with some sort of resistance so that your muscle fibers are activated through tension. After holding the tension for about 15 to 30 seconds, relax the muscle and get a partner to push on the body part being stretched — this will increase your range of motion. When you relax the muscle that has just been tensed, it will become completely eased, allowing you to stretch further. This also encourages the development of strength in a muscle that you wouldn’t normally work.
Two active stretches are the hamstring stretch and the shoulder stretch. For the hamstring stretch, lay on your back with your partner beside you. Slowly lift one leg so it is at a comfortable angle (about 90º). Slowly have your partner push on your leg, moving it toward your upper body so you are assuming more of a split position.
Once he has pushed your leg as far as it can go, resist, hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and slowly relax, allowing him to push your leg farther than before. Your muscles will loosen up and become more flexible. Repeat this process twice more, and then switch legs.
The shoulder stretch can be performed independently. Stand between two walls, with each arm facing a wall. Slowly resist against the wall as hard as you can (you can vary this exercise by changing your wrist position to target different shoulder and arm muscles). Relax your arms and move into a shoulder stretch (bring one arm across your chest and pull with your free hand). Repeat this exercise two to three times.
Passive stretching can be done alone on a slightly padded mat. Since this is a physical and mental cool-down for your body, choose a space that is fairly quiet and relaxing.
While performing this type of stretch, it is critical that your muscles be warm (since cold muscles tend to tear). Assume various positions that provide a slight stretch on your muscles, but not a sharp pain (this would indicate that you are either pushing too hard or doing the stretch incorrectly). Hold each stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds, focusing on deep breathing, which will also help you to relax and increase your range of motion.
# Hamstring stretch: Sit on the floor and reach your arms toward your toes.
# Quadricep stretch: Stand on one leg, bend your free leg at the knee, grab it behind you, and slowly pull on your foot (keeping your knee facing forward) until there is a slight pull on the quad muscle.
# Calf stretch: Place your toes on a step with one or both heels hanging off the edge of the step, and lower your heels until there is a pull in your calf.
# Shoulder stretch: Similar to the stretch described in active stretching, but without the intiial resistance component.
# Side bends: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly bend over to one side; repeat this stretch on the other side.
# Chest stretch: Stand with your side to a wall, place your inner arm against the wall, and turn your torso to stretch the chest muscle.
# Triceps stretch: Lift your arms overhead, bending one at the elbow and pushing down on the bent elbow with your free hand.
Try to perform each of these stretches at least once or twice.
Stretch it out
If you are rushing to the shower after every workout, you could be shortchanging yourself from reaching your full strength potential. Without stretching, you’re not only setting yourself up for muscle soreness, but you are also increasing the chances of suffering from joint pain and decreased range of motion at an older age.
Perform a combination of active and passive stretching exercises at the end of each workout when your muscles are warm, making sure to push as hard as you are comfortable. Before you know it, your weightlifting will seem easier, you’ll be more agile playing sports, and everyday movements won’t be quite as hard.