I’m a stretcher, and proud of it! It is quite typical for me to spend the first few minutes right after waking up to stretch before I jump to my feet. I like to think of myself much like a cat in that sense – notice how they tend to stretch & elongate their little furry bodies after waking from a nap?! Well that’s me, only I’m not little, nor furry, lol.
What I will admit too (and I hope my trainer doesn’t read this) is I dislike stretching pre and post workouts. Why? Ehhh a stupid reason that I have to force myself to share, that being, I am always so freaking pumped to start my training that I tend to dive right in and pretend to forget the importance of warming the muscles so they are both stimulated and loosened up for a good, less-prone-to-injury workout! And my reason for neglecting my post workout stretch is because I’m usually spending my last bouts of energy crawling to the water fountain, ha. But listen carefully when I say, DO AS I SAY AND NOT WHAT I DO … read on:
Stretching is important for every work out. It allows the muscles to warm up, fending off unnecessary strain, cramping, and other dangers that can occur when cold muscles are worked too quickly. Stretching your muscles helps you maximize the range of motion of your joints. This allows you to fully contract your muscles. Stretching can also prevent little tears in a muscle or tendon that occur when you force a joint to go through its full range of motion when the tissues are too tight.
Static Stretching: Are the most common stretches. These stretches isolate specific muscles, a count of 20-30seconds is my recommendation. Be mindful of bouncing during stretching, this is called ballistic stretching and it can be detrimental to those that are not familiar with their own body’s flexibilities. Ballistic stretching is not holding the muscle in a static stretch position, instead the body bounces, stretching the muscle further with every bounce. This activity can be dangerous because it causes stress on the joints and can lead to hyper-extending a muscle by not being able to judge just how far a stretch is possible. It also may engage the natural reflex of the golgi tendon which takes over the bouncing and does not offer any benefits to flexibility. So focus on static stretches, and hold for up to 30seconds, it’ll work to lengthen your muscles and lead to greater flexibility.
Dynamic Stretching: Many of the best strength coaches support the use of dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching consists of functional based exercises which use sport specific movements to prepare the body for movement. It involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. Do not confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching! Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently & gradually!) to the limits of your range of motion. Ballistic stretches involve trying to force a part of the body beyond its range of motion, understand the difference. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or “jerky” movements. Several professional coaches, authors and studies have supported or shown the effectiveness of dynamic stretching, especially as it pertains to a specific functional movement or sport.
To ensure safety, anyone who wants to begin a fitness program should consult with a doctor. Then ask a medical or fitness professional the best course of action. No matter what kind of exercise they choose, a good stretch is important to increase safety and overall flexibility.
You can download a free list of stretches at http://www.necksup.com/exercises
References: Yahoo Health