Stretching is an excellent way to improve your overall well-being and range of motion. In the inactive world that we live in, it is easy to tighten up from sitting in a car or at a desk all day. Over time, if your muscles are not stretched properly this can lead to some seriously bad range of motion in your later years.
Ok, so most of us are aware that stretching is important on some level, but we may not know how to get the most out of our stretch sessions. Today we will go over 5 basic steps to improve your stretch session and optimize your return on the time you dedicate to improving your flexibility and range of motion.
Warm-Up Properly - To effectively and safely lengthen your muscles, it is important that your body is warmed up and ready to go before you get deep into a stretch. Save stretching for after a workout, or make sure to do some light cardio to get the blood pumping first.
Feel a Stretch, but NO Pain - Stretching a muscle can feel a little intense, but it is important to work into a stretch softly to the point of tension. There should be absolutely no pain involved in your stretch and if there is then back off a little bit to the point of no pain.
Aim to Hold a Stretch for 30 Seconds - Stretches do not need to be a long and arduous effort, and some studies have shown that it does more good to split a stretch into two 30 second segments over one 60 second segment. Aim to get in about 60 seconds of stretching for each major muscle group, but try breaking it up into smaller and blocks of time.
Remember to Breathe - For some reason everyone forgets to breathe while stretching because they are so focused, but breathing is the body’s way of circulating oxygenated blood throughout the body. For best results, it is important to breathe and relax while you stretch.
Don’t Force it or Bounce - Bouncing through a stretch can cause micro-tears in the muscle tissue, which can actually hamper flexibility and increase inflammation. It is best to ease into each stretch and slowly increase the intensity as your muscles lengthen. Don’t confuse bouncing with dynamic stretching, as dynamic stretching is slowly rolling into and releasing from a stretch, this is a safe and effective way to prepare the body for movement.
Stretching consistently can lengthen your muscles and increase flexibility. This can have an immensely positive benefit on your quality of life. Follow these simple steps and you will be well on your way to improving your flexibility even more!