Improve flexibility and the range of motion in your joints.
Better flexibility can even improve performance in activities like running or decrease the risk of injury by helping your joints move through their full range of motion, enabling your muscles to work most effectively. 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 your post-workout stretch!
Improving your flexibility
Before you take 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. If done incorrectly it can actually do more harm than good.
Use these tips 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 and breathe.
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. Stretch 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, can 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.