Stretching can increase flexibility and range of motion around your joints, which in turn may reduce your risk of injury and improve performance.
Good flexibility of your body can:
- Improve your performance in physical activities. This can range from your ability to run faster with better technique through to simply being able to get out of a chair.
For instance, tight quadriceps (muscles at the front of your thighs) can stop you bending your knees sufficiently to get out of a chair. Getting out of a chair involves you being able to bend your knees beyond 90 degrees to give you enough leverage to stand up. If your quadricep muscles are tight and not allowing your knees to bend, you will find it very difficult to get out of a chair.
Another example includes your ability to run fast. To run well you need good flexibility of your hip flexor muscles at the front of the hip. Tight hip flexors impede your ability to take your leg backwards and stride out. Consequently, your stride length will shorten and slow you down.
2. Decrease your risk of injuries.
Muscles work best when they can respond to change quickly and efficiently. If a muscle is tight then its ability to change quickly is diminished. The muscle will not have the length that you may require to perform an activity.
A classic example of this problem revolves around tight hamstrings. Hamstrings are the group of muscles at the back of your thighs. They are the muscles that bend your knees and help you walk. Hamstring muscles lengthen and stretch out when you walk. If you take longer or bigger strides when you walk or run, your hamstrings need more length to allow your leg to step forward with a bigger stride. If the hamstrings are tight and they don’t have that flexibility to lengthen as you step out, you risk tearing the muscle – something gives, and it is usually the muscle belly of the hamstring. Therefore, hamstring tears often occur with a burst of running or striding out quickly.
These are just a few examples.
Stretching all major muscle groups is an important part of a daily exercise routine as it keeps you flexible, helps you to keep doing what you want and need to do, and reduces your risk of injury.
Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good. But what is the best and safest way to stretch?
Use these tips to keep stretching safe:
- Don’t stretch cold muscles as you may hurt yourself. Stretching should not replace a warmup. Before stretching, warm up with walking, jogging or cycling at low intensity for five to ten minutes.
- Stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm.
- Stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use.
- Don’t bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing.
- Hold your stretch. Breathe normally and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for longer up to 60 seconds. This allows time for the muscle fibres to give.
- Do not stretch into pain.
- Be consistent with your stretching. You can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.
Hope this helps, Deb