Stretching … do it, it’s important

I stretch as much as I can, as often as I can. After workouts or runs so I’m not as sore the next day. In between clients so I don’t wear out. I also incorporate stretching into my massage sessions, if needed and if able as in if the client is physically able to do so.

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Types of Stretching:

Ballistic – not recommended because it is stretching by bouncing into (or out of) a stretched position, using the stretched muscles as a spring which pulls you out of the stretched position. This type of stretching is not considered useful and can lead to injury. It does not allow your muscles to adjust to, and relax in, the stretched position. It may instead cause them to tighten up by repeatedly activating the stretch reflex.

Dynamic – typically used for warming up

Involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or “jerky” movements. An example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists.

Active  – Also known as static-active stretching is one where you assume a position and then hold it there with no assistance other than using the strength of your agonist (opposing) muscles. Ex: bringing your leg up high then holding it without anything (other than your leg muscles themselves) to keep the leg in that extended position. The tension of the agonists in an active stretch helps to relax the muscles being stretched (the antagonists) by reciprocal inhibition.

Active stretching increases active flexibility and strengthens the agonistic muscles. Active stretches are usually quite difficult to hold and maintain for more than 10 seconds and rarely need to be held any longer than 15 seconds.

Passive – used for cooling down post workouts

Or relaxed stretching/ static-passive stretching is one where you assume a position and hold it with some other part of your body, or with the assistance of a partner or some other apparatus. Ex: bringing your leg up high then holding it there with your hand.

Static – Many people use the term “passive stretching” and “static stretching” interchangeably. However, there are a number of people who make a distinction between the two. According to M. Alter:

Static stretching involves holding a position. That is, you stretch to the farthest point and hold the stretch …

Passive stretching is a technique in which you are relaxed and make no contribution to the range of motion. Instead, an external force is created by an outside agent, either manually or mechanically.

Isometric – Is a type of static stretching (does not use motion) which involves the resistance of muscle groups through isometric contractions (tensing) of the stretched muscles. The use of isometric stretching is one of the fastest ways to develop increased static-passive flexibility and is much more effective than either passive stretching or active stretching alone. Isometric stretches also help to develop strength in the “tensed” muscles, and seems to decrease the amount of pain usually associated with stretching.

The proper way to perform an isometric stretch is as follows:

  1. Assume the position of a passive stretch for the desired muscle.
  2. Next, tense the stretched muscle for 7-15 seconds (resisting against some force that will not move, like the floor or a partner).
  3. Finally, relax the muscle for at least 20 seconds.

PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) – this type is usually what I use in my sessions

It is not really a type of stretching but a technique combining passive and isometric stretching in order to achieve maximum static flexibility. PNF stretching usually employs the use of a partner to provide resistance against the isometric contraction and then later to passively take the joint through its increased range of motion.

SpinalStretchesBenefits of stretching

Studies about the benefits of stretching have had mixed results. Some show that stretching helps, while others show that stretching has little if any benefit.

The main benefits of stretching are thought to be:

  • Improving athletic performance
  • Decreasing the risk of activity-based injuries

Stretching can help improve flexibility. And better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion. Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle.

Essentials

While you can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work, in a hotel room or at the park — you want to be sure to use proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good.

Tips:

  • Don’t stretch a cold muscle. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for 5-10 minutes. Or stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up. Consider holding off on stretching before an intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.
  • Focus on major muscle groups. Ex: calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints you routinely use at work or play. And stretch both sides.
  • Don’t bounce. Bouncing can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further, making you less flexible and more prone to pain. So, hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch three or four times.
  • Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
  • Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity.
  • Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the best benefits by stretching regularly, at least 2-3 times a week. If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that stretching offered.

Most of the above info came from Mayo Clinic, and books from school.

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