Stretching Exercises, A Mistake To Neglect

I used to hate stretching exercises. You probably thinks that’s a little strong, but I really did hate them. And to my own detriment. At first I used to see them as utterly unnecessary. I used to think what is the point? And so I just didn’t do them. And then I began to change my mind, around about my mid-twenties. About the time I realised I wasn’t 16 anymore and couldn’t throw myself around the way all teenagers can. At this time I began to considered them a necessary evil! I started to do them to correct muscle imbalances and injuries I had picked up over the years. Very annoyingly, I realised that if I had the right attitude from an early age, I wouldn’t have picked up those imbalance or some of those injuries in the first place! But now, rapidly approaching my mid-thirties, I think stretching exercises are simply awesome. Sitting down in a chair all day long working an office job plays havoc with my back and hips. I have to perform lower back stretching exercises religiously. A good stretching routine keeps away the pain of those stiff joints, feels fantastic, and allows me to continue exercising and taking part in sport as I get older. So why wouldn’t you want to stretch those stiff, tight muscles?

Types of Stretching Exercises

There are several types and variations of stretching techniques. The type used would depend on the activity preceding or succeeding it and the personal fitness level of the individual. Dynamic Stretching is useful prior to an aerobic workout as part of your warm up routine. You gently move your limbs, increasing the range of motion and speed, but never forcing a joint past its range of motion. You might have previously heard of ballistic stretching. Please don’t confuse the two. Ballistic stretching forces your limbs beyond its range, which can be very damaging to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Passive Stretching is where you assume a stretched position, possibly with the aid or some apparatus or a friend, and hold that position for a period of time. Usually around 20 to 30 seconds. It is often used simply to loosen tight muscles, relieve muscle spasms, and to aid recovery after an injury. However, if you have an injury, you should speak to a qualified therapist before embarking on any stretching routine. (You could make things worse for yourself!) Isometric Stretching involves you performing a passive stretch and then contracting (or tensing) that muscle whilst remaining in the stretched position. You’ll see quicker gains with this type of stretching than with passive stretching alone. To perform an isometric stretch . . .

Assume a passive stretch position

Tense the stretched muscle for 10 to 15 seconds

Relax the muscle for at least 20 seconds before repeating

PNF Stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, is the fastest most effective method to increase static flexibility. It basically combines the passive stretch with the isometric stretch. To perform a PNF stretch, carry out the same procedure above for the isometric stretch, but after the contraction relax the muscle for 2 to 3 seconds (whilst maintaining the passive stretch) then increase the range a little further. You’ll be able to stretch further due to the increased range of motion provided by the contraction! To perform a PNF stretch . . . Assume a passive stretch position

Tense the stretched muscle for 10 to 15 seconds

Relax the muscle for 2 to 3 seconds (but maintain the passive stretch)

Then stretch that little bit further

Take a look at the list of stretching routines below and use or modify them as you wish. Incorporating stretching exercises into your general fitness routine will help you avoid or minimise the risk of injury. It may also prevent or minimise post exercise muscle soreness. I say may because there is much debate and contradictory research regarding this. Hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes I made several years ago. Or if you do . . . learn from them!

Stretching Routines

10 Minute Static Stretching Routine

This 10 minute static stretching routine is great for general fitness. And great for the more sedentary of us.

Calf Muscle and Achilles Tendon Stretching

Incorporate this achilles tendon stretching routine to increase your flexibility. Best Stretching Routines

For one of the best stretching routines, see this full body stretch workout. 10 minutes a day is all you need.