All You Need to Know About Stretching

Most of us think of stretching as something only professional athletes should perform, but on the contrary, it’s essential for everybody. In addition, it isn’t just associated with doing sport – stretching should be performed on a daily basis whether you work out or not.

6 min read - 29 May 2021 Young man stretching in the running field

What does it mean to stretch?

Stretching is a combination of physical exercises aiming to flex, stretch and lengthen specific muscles and other soft tissues like tendons, fascia, and ligaments, to improve elasticity. As you stretch regularly, your muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion improve.


Why is stretching so important?

Our muscles need to be flexible to have a range of motion. Stretching both gives flexibility to muscles and joints, and strengthens the muscles, resulting in an increased range of motion.

Without stretching, the muscles shorten and become tight. When you then want to make a certain movement, the weakened muscles are unable to extend all the way. In time, even the simplest actions become harder and threaten the health of your joints.

Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible. Healthy muscles also improve balance and prevent falls. Stretches also prevent lactic acid build up in the muscles, making your next workout session more bearable.


Types of stretching

Experts used to believe that stretching was necessary to warm up the muscles and prepare them for activity. However, recent research has shown that stretching the muscles before they're warmed up can actually hurt them because the fibers may be damaged when the muscles are cold.

It’s very important to know when to stretch and what kind of stretches to perform to maintain a healthy workout life.
 
There are different kinds of stretches but the main two types are dynamic and static.


Dynamic Stretching:

Dynamic stretches involve movement of the muscle during the stretch and are used on the warm-up part of a workout. First, you need to heat the muscles a little bit with some low-intensity aerobic exercise. You could do jogging, brisk walking or simply dancing for 5-10 minutes. This will elevate your heart rate and get the cardiovascular system ready for action. Then do your dynamic stretches with slow and controlled active contraction of your muscles.

Lunges are an example of dynamic stretching. Hold every stretch for at least 30 seconds. You can choose a stretching workout from Kompanion according to your personal needs. You'll feel tension during a stretch, but you should not feel pain. Swinging your arms and legs back and forth at high speed to take a muscle beyond its typical range of motion using momentum is another kind of dynamic stretching.


Static Stretching:

Static stretches are used after the workouts as a part of the cool-down period. A cool-down normally includes very light aerobic activity and static stretching. The term “static” refers to stretches that are performed without movement. In other words, the individual gets into the stretch position and holds the stretch. Major muscle groups (chest, back, arms, abdominals, legs, shoulders) should be stretched for about 15-60 seconds each. The longer you can hold a stretch, the better it is for improving your flexibility. 

For both dynamic and static stretching, it's best to flow from one stretch to the next without rest in between.


To sum up

Stretching for 1-2 days won't magically give you perfect flexibility. You'll need to do it over time and remain committed to the process.

While stretching, focus mainly on your calves and hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis, and the quadriceps in the front of the thigh. In addition, stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial. Try to do your stretches every day, and if that’s not possible, 3-4 times a week.


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