Stretching is beneficial to all exercise routines as it helps to warm the muscles up, cool the muscles down and release toxins. Stretching also increases your range of movement and relieves stiffness.
Flexibility means the range of movement available at a joint. The amount of flexibility you have in general is affected by various things, including age, health and muscle temperature.
Too much flexibility means your joints are less stable, while too little flexibility means there is more stress is placed on the joints during movement. The ideal amount of flexibility is a perfect balance between stability and suppleness.
Stretching can help with flexibility and a proper stretching plan should be formulated into your exercise and strength training routines to improve overall physical health.
Why is stretching important?
Stretching is important when strength training to reduce the risk of injuries. You need to stretch the muscles before a workout and afterwards.
Stretching before the workout is an important way to help warm up the muscles and prepare them for work, while stretching after your workout helps the muscles relax, maintains and develops the muscle’s range of movement and releases toxins.
The Stretch Reflex
When stretching, the muscle will only stretch so far before the ‘stretch reflex’ kicks in.
The stretch reflex is a muscle contraction that begins suddenly when the muscle has stretched to its maximum. This is the body’s way of protecting its muscles and stopping them from over-stretching and tearing or rupturing.
You should always ease gently into a stretch to delay the onset of the stretch reflex and enable to muscle to slowly develop and increase its range of movement.
Preparation stretches are those stretches you do before a workout. It is necessary to do a warm up before doing your preparation stretches because you could cause injury if you try to stretch a cold muscle.
Preparation stretches should also be performed standing up in order to maintain a higher body temperature. Find out more about preparation stretches.
Post-workout stretches are those stretches performed after your work out. These stretches help the body to return to a relaxed state and help the muscles to eliminate toxins. These stretches are often performed lying down or seated to create more relaxation.
Post-workout stretches can be either maintenance stretches or developmental stretches. Find out more about post-workout stretches.
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