Why is Stretching Exercises beneficial?
Exercise encourages the shortening and tightening of your muscles. Stretching exercises encourage lengthening of your muscles and their associated tendons.
Muscles shorten overtime, with use during exercise and with our general postural habits. If you only use a small range of your muscle length range, your muscle will adapt over time and shorten to that length, with the outcome that you have restricted movement.
When do Stretching Exercises Help?
Studies have shown that a warm-up that includes static stretching does not appear to prevent injury during exercise, and can in fact reduce muscle strength and power. These can be performed, but earlier in the routine is ideal. Therefore, a pre-exercise stretching program should include active style of stretching, to prepare you for high-load muscle activity during your sport. The use of a dynamic stretching program to prepare you for sport appears to have the beneficial effects.
How to Stretch Properly?
It is important to stretch your muscles only when they are warm, as cold muscles are more likely to sustain injury. The stretches that you perform vary depending on whether your are preparing for exercise, recovering from exercise or rehabilitating from injury. Below are some guidelines on stretching:
Before you exercise it is a good idea to warm up your muscles to prepare you for the rigours of exercise.
The ideal pre-exercise stretching program includes a general warm up such as a light 5 minute jog until you can feel some warmth in your muscles. Then, you can perform some slow sustained static stretches ideally for 20 to 30 seconds. Your stretching exercises should be modified by increasing their speed and power in a progressively graduated order that prepares you for the skills and muscle demands for your sport or chosen exercise session.
By the end of your warm up you should be performing dynamic or movement style exercises that replicate your sport’s requirements.
Stretching After Exercise
An ideal time to do most of your static stretching is after exercise, that is, immediately after your post-exercise cool-down. Allow around 5 to 10 minutes to stretch after exercise, and concentrate on the muscles that you have just exercised. Use the static stretches rather than bouncing style stretches. Stretching at this time helps restore your muscles to their resting length and prepare them for your next exercise session.
Corrective or Rehabilitation Stretching
Specific stretching for targeting muscles that have been identified by your physiotherapist should be performed daily. These can be done at a slow pace, and often can be performed while doing everyday tasks, or sitting at your desk.
Alternatively, attending a yoga class is an enjoyable way to contribute to the flexibility part of your fitness programme.
Stretching Exercise Styles
Dynamic or Ballistic Stretching
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching
Stretching can be used as a corrective, preventative and recovery strategy. More specific stretching advice can be sought from your physiotherapist at Advanced Physio West.
If you would like more information on Stretching, or to arrange an appointment with the Physiotherapist at Advanced Physio West in Roscommon or Galway, please phone 090 6626023/ 086 3758169 or book online
Article by Paul Lennon (Physiotherapist)