It's as important as exercise
Stretching can help improve flexibility, and consequently, the range of motion in your joints...
Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle, keeping them healthy.It may seem like a chore at first but if you make it just another part of your training, you even may come to enjoy the ritual of stretching!
Improving your flexibility
Before you make the plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. 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 actually do more harm than good.
Click here to find a great online database of Stretching Exercises.
Stretching EssentialsUse these tips to for safe stretching.
1. Focus on major muscle groups.When you're stretching, focus on major muscle groups (just as we do at the close of each session) such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Make sure that you stretch both sides. For instance, if you stretch your left hamstring, be sure to stretch your right hamstring.
2. Be smooth.Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing. Bouncing as you stretch can cause injury to the muscle.
3. Hold your stretch.Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds or four breaths; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds or 8 breaths. Breathe normally as you stretch. Breathe into the stretch as the muscle releases.
4. Aim just beyond discomfort, just before pain.Expect to feel tension while you're stretching, but not pain. If it hurts, you've pushed too far. You want to stretch just beyond discomfort but just before pain, then hold the stretch.
5. Incorporate movement.Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific activities. The gentle movements of tai chi or yoga, for instance, may be a good way to stretch.
6. Be consistent.
Stretching can be time-consuming but you can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly. You should aim for at least two to three times a week. When you don't stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that are gained from stretching. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, and you stop stretching, your range of motion may decrease again.