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Tuesday 17th September 2019
As a massage therapist, on a daily basis, I see clients who have tight muscles. These tight muscles can be the result of a number of different causes including, poor posture, stress, sports, a medical condition, poor diet and or being overweight. It's always a pleasure helping my clients with this problem by applying various massage techniques to release the tightness in their muscles, but I also explain to my clients that they can really help themselves by also getting into a regular stretch routine at home or at the gym.
So many of us, myself included, don't stretch frequently, either because we simply don't know how to, or we don't think it's important, or it takes too long and we don't have the time. Well, whatever your reasons are for not doing it, in most cases you're absolutely wrong not to! Stretching is fantastic for the body, mind and spirit, and it's an activity that you can do in the comfort of your home without it costing you anything, it's free!!!
So, why stretch and how do I do it?
Well, the answer to the first part of the question lies in the benefits you derive from stretching. The benefits of stretching are numerous and will, of course, depend on what type of stretching you are doing. It could be dynamic stretching, static stretching, PNF stretching, isometric stretching, or another type of stretching. In general, there are multiple advantages which include keeping our muscles healthy, strong and flexible. Without this flexibility, we limit the range of motion in our joints. The muscles are shortened and become tight. The follow-through of this is that when you activate the muscle it is weak and not able to extend to its full length. Consequently, this puts you at risk of damaging the muscles, causing strains and joint pain. If you're playing sport, in this case kickboxing, and if the associated muscles are tight and they're called upon to do, for example, a high kick or sidekick, they can potentially become damaged from suddenly being stretched. If the muscle becomes injured it may not have the strength to support the joint and in turn the joint can be injured. As you can see, not stretching can lead to a horrible chain of events. Not only can a good stretch routine help prevent injury, but it can also help boost your physical performance through increased power, agility, speed and muscular strength.
The other benefits associated with stretching include:
1. reduced stress;
2. less pain & stiffness;
3. improved heath;
4. increased range of motion;
5. improved blood flow & circulation;
6. a better quality of life.
So, to the second part of the question: how do I do it?
The belief was that stretching before a workout was good, but studies have shown that stretching cold muscles using non-dynamic techniques can actually injure them. It's best to lightly warm the muscles up before your workout and then apply your stretch routine post-training. The reason this works is that you'll increase the blood flow to the muscles which makes the tissue more pliable and receptive to change. If you're not exercising, do a light 10-minute warm-up which could include a low-intensity walk, run or bike ride before you stretch.
I should add that a dynamic stretch routine incorporated into your light warm-up may be beneficial. Dynamic stretches are active motions that take your body through a series of movements that will prepare you for your exercise or sporting event. For example, these movements may include leg swings, walking lunges, hip and arm circles or trunk twists.
Another important goal when stretching is to have balanced flexibility on both sides of the body as a lack of symmetry may increase the risk of injury. During stretching, target those muscles that you use regularly but of course stretch the major muscles; such as the calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. When holding a stretch, do so for around 30 seconds, and up to 60 seconds where you have a problem. Please, if you're feeling pain ease- off on the stretch and take it to the point where it's comfortable. If you're suffering from a severe medical condition such as arthritis, please consult your doctor about what stretches you can do.
Finally, as with everything, to get meaningful results you need to stretch consistently, say at least three times per week, and over a period of time.
Al - arunauche.com