“I never stretch, I don’t have enough time and I can’t be bothered lying around all over the floor stretching when I am in a hurry to get home from the gym?” Or “I train at home, I can barely squeeze my weights or cardio in – so I skip my stretches”… Sound familiar?! I hear it often! And even though it sounds funny when you hear it out aloud, it is often the case for many people that carryout an exercise regime. I can’t tell you enough how important stretching muscles is. As stupid as you may feel stretching may be it plays a major part in assisting healthy training results and gains.
Stretches help prevent injuries while training PLUS increase flexibility.
How? By making your muscles more flexible by lengthening them. For example, when you perform a bicep curl you bend your arm and raise your hand towards your shoulder. When you watch this movement you will see the bicep muscle shortening. When you extend your arm back to starting position it would be lengthening your bicep muscle.
Often when muscles have been trained hard, or if they haven’t been trained in years (lack of exercise in general) they tend to seize up, contract / shorten when you do put them under strain such as moving house, playing an occasional game of football at the park etc. So stretching these muscles helps lengthen them to give your body and limbs a better range of motion or movement.
When was the last time you either trained or did something strenuous to the point where your muscles were sore for days? Remember the sheer pain you went through? That’s your muscles contracting. So you need to stretch or lengthen them to help repair them and increase flexibility.
About Increasing Your Flexibility
As you already know we are born with fantastic range of movement when it comes to flexibility. Eg baby sucking it’s toes etc. So what happens? Most of us don’t bother to keep up with that type of range of movement as we get older, which means we lose our flexibility. When you think about it the average person doesn’t exercise that much at all, let alone go out of their way to train for flexibility.
Dancers and Gymnasts undergo large amounts of training and stretching to increase and maintain flexibility, as do many other athletes. You may have seen sports athletes at events or games where they have performed a warm up (say a jog for instance) around the oval. They warm their muscles up, then stretch them. This offers them better flexibility while they are playing and prepares their muscles for the game ahead. They will then perform stretches after the game as well.
About Stretching Muscles…
There are many types of stretches from partner stretches to sports specific stretches. What ever your activity, it is important to make sure you take a small amount of time out, while your muscles are still warm, to stretch. Try not to stretch on cold muscles because you may damage them. I could go on about the benefits of stretching for pages, so instead of rambling on, I have just given you a general explanation so you gain a better understanding of why it is so important to REMEMBER TO STRETCH!
Happy training folks,
Yours in fun, health and fitness
© Mandy Gibbons
Virtual Fitness Trainer
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