What Is Stretching?
Stretching, a physical exercise in which an individual muscle or muscle group (tendon) is intentionally stretch or contract to enhance muscles’ flexibility. It helps in toning muscles and develops good control over them.
General Definition: “A form of exercise aimed to stretch out the limbs and muscles to the maximum extent.”
Scientific Definition: “The application of force to musculotendinous (muscular and tendinous tissue) structures to achieve a shift in their length, usually to promote a joint range of motion (ROM), decreasing stiffness or soreness, or preparing for the (physical) activity.”
Humans and animals perform stretching; one of its most basic forms is yawning, a natural and spontaneous activity. Stretching can be done after waking up, before bed, after a long time of inactivity, etc. Moreover, it is used as a therapeutic exercise to lighten cramps.
Alert: Stretching can be risky when performed inaccurately. Using ineffective or detrimental ways can cause any serious injury such as hypermobility, instability, or any permanent damage to the tendons, ligaments, or muscle fiber.
Importance of Stretching
Surprisingly, stretching is pretty important to your body. Perform stretching exercises for just five to ten minutes per day, and you will notice a big difference.
Let’s take the example of a rubber band that sits unused on your desk. When you try to stretch, it always breaks in half. Our muscles are like a rubber band; the more you expand, the more flexible, strong, and active they are.
So, make it a part of your everyday life and say bye-bye to tight muscles.
Type of Stretches
There are two types of stretches static and dynamic.
Static Stretches: They are executed in a stationary position (without any movement).
Dynamic Stretches: They involve muscle(s) movement when you stretch.
Components of Stretches
Again, Stretches have two components active and passive.
Active Stretches: They utilize internal force produced by the body to increase the intensity of the stretch.
Passive Stretches: They are performed by an external force (e.g., assistive device or friend) to build the stretch intensity.
There are a few key points you have to understand before practicing stretches.
Target major muscle groups
During stretching, your main focus is on the neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, thighs, and calves. Plus, you must regularly stretch joints and muscles that you use in your everyday routine.
Before stretching, warm-up is mandatory. Why? Because when you perform stretching and muscles are cold, it doubles the risk of damage. For a safe side, first do your favorite low-intensity exercise(s) just for five minutes and then perform stretches.
Tip: start your stretch slowly; it limits your mistakes and prevents injury.
Hold your stretch
Hold your stretch for at least 30 seconds; it is an ideal time to lengthen tissues safely. But for very tight muscle or any problem area must continue your stretch up to 60 seconds to get maximum benefit.
Repeat the stretch
Go for 2 to 4 repetitions for each stretch. It can help you to achieve trouble-free stretches progressively.
Avoid bouncing in the middle of stretches; it disrupts your stretch position as well as not to let muscles decompress. As a result, your muscles are less flexible and be at greater risk of harm.
Focus on a pain-free stretch
If you feel pain while stretching, go back to the position at which you are comfortable and then again continue your stretch. Keep adding new moves gradually because your body takes time to adapt the stretch.
Relax and breathe freely
Finally, yet importantly, avoid holding breath when you stretch. Breath naturally, it helps in maintaining good posture. Memorize the formula “Good breath, good posture.”
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