Flexibility is an important component of physical fitness that is often overlooked or completely ignored. Trainees include other components of fitness like strength training and cardiovascular endurance but fail to include stretching in their fitness routines.
Why do I Need to Stretch?
Stretching to obtain flexibility is important. Stretching can help prevent injury. When muscles are stretched, they are less likely to be strained or pulled. It can reduce joint stiffness and pains. Improved flexibility can lead to better circulation. Improved circulation helps the blood flow through the body properly.
Stretching can improve your posture by stretching properly. Poor posture begins with sitting in an office chair all day, stretching the upper body will help improve posture. Stretching done after a workout can be beneficial in alleviating soreness.
Stretching for athletes can help with speed and quickness. Muscles that are tight can hinder performance. Athletes that have more flexibility are going to have more efficient movements. Stretching can help runners so they are less likely to be injured and get a pulled muscle.
Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching
Static stretching and dynamic stretching are two major types of stretching that we most commonly use. Static stretching is when you hold and stretch a muscle in an elongated position for an amount of time such as 20 to 30 seconds. Dynamic stretching is very different since it consists of performing short sport-specific movements that may help prepare us for a certain sport.
Most research shows that dynamic stretching performed before a sport is more effective than static stretching since it has explosive qualities and should not interfere with the explosive power of that sport. Dynamic stretching is done more as a pre-workout routine to warm up muscles and soft tissues and to increase blood flow to the muscle groups involved.
Static stretching has been shown to be most effective after exercise since the research shows this can reduce muscular power prior to exercise. Static stretching is beneficial for the many reasons outlined above, plus increasing flexibility and preventing injuries such as muscle tears but after your workout as part of your cooldown.
Studies have shown that “sports that necessitate a high degree of static flexibility should use short duration static stretches with lower intensity stretches in a trained population to minimize the possibilities of impairments (injury).” A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance European Journal of Applied Physiology NOV 2011, Volume 111.
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