The Essentials for Stretching

The one thing that should be included in every workout is stretching, however not many people actually do it. Health professionals tell us that it’s the main part of an exercise routine that many people overlook. It can have a major effect on how your muscles react to your workouts. After all, stretching helps warm up your muscles, and warmed up muscles are more flexible.

Want to know some TRUEs and FALSEs about stretching? Have a look at these:

What Most People Believe About Stretching

  1. “My muscles are warmafter a workout, so it’s best to stretch then.” TRUE OR FALSE? A bit of both, actually.Warm muscles are more pliant, so it’s safer to stretch them. You don’t have to spend a long time warming up– just a few minutes of running, cycling, or walking is enough to warm up the muscle fibres. A quick stretch before your main workout and during your cool down is ideal.

  2. “Stretching can only be done ONE way.“ TRUE OR FALSE? False: There are at least six different ways to stretch. Below are the most popular.Static stretching Generally considered to be the safest stretching method. Extend a particular muscle until you feel a light strain, then hold for up to a minute.Active isolated (AI) stretching This involves stretching a target muscle for just a couple of seconds. Although some people may say there is a danger of overstretching, it does allow the muscle to stay relaxed because it’s not contracted for long.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching This one is best done with a personal trainer, coach, or training partner. The other person acts as your stretch “assistant” and will help you move deeper (and safely!) into the stretch.

Ballistic or dynamic stretching You’ve probably tried this method before in school sports lessons! Gradually move into your stretch and softly bounce in position. Just be gentle with this stretch, as it can put some strain your muscles if done incorrectly.

  1. “A bit of pain is good during a stretch.” TRUE OR FALSE? False: If it hurts to stretch, you’re doing it wrong or you’re pushing yourself too far. Focus on steady breathing, and on the exhale try to extend your stretch a bit further whilst keeping your muscles relaxed.

  2. “15 seconds is the minimum amount of time to hold a stretch.” TRUE OR FALSE? True: Most specialists currently agree that holding a stretch for 15 to 30 seconds is enough.

Stretches for Beginners

Overhead stretch (for shoulders, neck, and back) Stand in a neutral position with feet shoulder width apart. Clasp your fingers together with palms facing outward and stretch your arms over your head. Focus on steady breathing, inhaling and exhaling. Count to ten slowly, release the stretch and then repeat.

Torso stretch (for lower back) Stand in a neutral position with feet shoulder width apart with your knees slightly bent (i.e. not locked out). Place your hands on your lower back, pull back your shoulders, and tilt your pelvis forward.Count to ten slowly, release the stretch and then repeat.

Cat and cow stretch Get on your hands and knees with your back flat (parallel to the floor) and your hands under your shoulders. Support the stretch by holding in your abs and bring your head down as your curve your back. Count to ten slowly and focus on steady breathing. Then raise your head and arch your back in the other direction. Count to ten slowly, go back to the starting position and then repeat 4 times.

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