YES!! Stretching is very necessary. Shame on those who think its a ridiculous past-time. You will probably suffer more soreness and pulled muscles than those who take the time to warm-up and cool down. Here are some health benefits to stretching:
- increased muscle suppleness
- possible decrease of soreness (if no other reason, this reason should be why you stretch)
- increased range of motion
- increased blood circulation
- increased agility
- improved functional flexibility
- injury rehab
- improved posture
- relaxation and stress management tool
There are two types of stretching: dynamic, which involves motion, and static, which doesn’t involve a lot of motion.
Dynamic stretching is used to warm up the body orthopedically, cardiovascularly, and thermally. This type of stretching should be used as the warm-up or before any type of vigorous activity. Use repeated, fluid, gentle body movements that gradually increase reach and/or speed of movement. Examples of dynamic stretching are: walking, arm circles, knee circles (so old-school, but effective), jumping jacks, leg swings, etc. Swinging a bat is considered a sport-related dynamic stretch. Dynamic stretching is any movement that slowly warms up your body and brings your heart rate a little higher. Like I said, gradually increase the speed and range of motion. Warm-up should be 5-10 minutes long.
Static stretching is the stuff most people think of when they think of stretching. The purpose of static stretching is to stretch those areas which are typically tight and could lead to muscle imbalances. This should involve stretching to the point of mild tightness without discomfort and holding that point. Use slow, controlled movement (don’t bounce!) and hold the stretch for 15-60 seconds while breathing normally (don’t hold your breath). Repeat the stretch around 4 times. Static stretching is typically used as part of the cool down. Please, don’t forget to utilize the cool down method. Gradual reduction of activity helps prevent the tightening of muscles and also helps prevent the pooling of blood in lower extremities by facilitating the return of venous blood to the heart. Cool down should include 3-5 minutes of mild activity (slow walking, slow cycling, etc) and dynamic stretching. Then 5-10 minutes of static stretching.
If you lifted weights, your stretching afterward will usually focus more one the muscles you worked, but don’t leave out the other ones, they liked to be loved on, too. The warm-up, cool down process of dynamic and static stretching should be used for whatever type of exercise you’re participating in.
Try to avoid uncontrolled neck circles, the hurdler’s stretch, lunging too far past your toes, and laying back on your knees to stretch your quads. All of these have a high possibility of injury to your neck or knees, two very vital pieces of your body!
Now let’s get flexible!
Shout out to Rachel Armstrong for the blog idea!!