Why should I stretch? If you are looking for a reason to add stretching into your routine, then we have got four.
Stretching is a broad and diverse term. We see numerous people focusing on their muscle strength and endurance but allocating zero attention to the respective muscle flexibility. The flexibility of muscle and other related soft tissues is not only important but necessary to attain independence in mobility. As we age, the muscles start to shrink and grow stiffer. This stiffness might be attributed to the reduction in the number of muscle fibers. Stretching not only reduces muscle stiffness but also increases the flexibility of muscle group, you are working on.
Let’s dive a little into the history of stretching and learn more about it. Stretching began with the Great Romans. Roman Empire used stretching as a means to keep their soldiers in shape. Interesting, right? However, it wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that stretching was officially documented in an osteological study.
Reasons to Stretch:
Stretching and health benefits go hand in hand. Here is why you need to add stretching into your routine
- Stretching is a great practice to improve the range of motion of joints. But, what is range of motion and why is it so important. The range of motion of a joint is the maximum movement potential of a joint.
For example, lay straight on the floor and raise your leg in the air after straightening it. Try to bring it towards your face. There would be a limit to which your leg will reach. From beginning to that very limit is your range of the hip joint. As we grow old, this range keeps reducing and a point reaches when we cannot even straighten our leg. Hence, the retainment of the range of motion is extremely important.
- Secondly, stretching enhances the blood flow towards the muscles and soft tissues. The enhanced blood flow will increase the oxygen content to muscles which will in-turn reduce muscle spasms and contractions. So, say bye-bye to post-workout muscle aches and extended recovery times.
- Thirdly, stretching reduces stress. Stress is a synonym for muscle tightness and stretches release the tension in the working muscles. Stretches also stimulate the nervous system to release endorphins which trigger feelings of euphoria and calmness.
- Also, stretching improves individual posture. The tightness and tension in muscles could alter the posture tremendously, putting pressure on other related structures of the body and stretching could help reeducate the muscles to retain their previous position.
Types of Stretching:
There are almost seven types of stretching, each unlocking a different benefit. However, these five you can do by yourself without assistance.
1) Ballistic Stretching:
The Ballistic stretching method uses bouncing movements to push your body beyond its normal range of motion. It is a very intense stretch and needs to be done under close supervision. However, it enhances the range of motion tremendously.
2) Dynamic Stretching:
Dynamic Stretching involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. The movements in dynamic stretching are very gentle unlike the movements in ballistic stretches. This stretch is effective for you if you are unable to move a body part beyond a range and if your muscles are stiff. Dynamic stretches also increase core temperature, so are mostly used before workouts as a warm-up.
3) Active Stretching:
An active stretch is one where you assume a position and then hold it there with no assistance other than using the strength of your agonist muscles (the muscle on which you are working). Active stretches are excellent to reduce muscle tightness, improve circulation, relieve pain, and improve performance. So it is best for you if you feel pain in fully straightening or bending your arm or your leg.
4) Passive Stretching:
A passive stretch 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. Passive stretches cool down the core temperature, so they are good to execute if you are feeling spasms or cramps in muscles. Who doesn’t feel their neck aching after a hectic day? Yes, they are spasms and passive stretches are all you need.
5) Static Stretching:
Many people mix “passive stretching” with “static stretching”. However, there are few changes apparent in their executions. Static stretching consists of stretching a muscle to its farthest point and then maintaining or holding that position, whereas passive stretching consists of a relaxed position in which external force brings the joint through its range of motion. Static stretches increase joint range and flexibility but also reduces muscle stiffness. It’s great for relieving stress and tension in muscles.
Choosing the right stretching exercise is critical for its effectiveness. Stretching is all about diversity and finding your preferred style. Stretching is the kind of exercise that one could incorporate into different core exercises to produce a customized session. One can also add passive and dynamic stretches into their workout schedule as they alter the core temperature and are ideal for cool down and warm-up sessions respectively.