As an athlete, it did not matter which coach I worked with because we never started or finished our workout without stretching. In fact, before competitions we took twice as much time to stretch. Stretching was and is still my mantra. Motion was my lifestyle. I had no idea that many people experience postural imbalances. They suffer from sedentary lifestyle, back and neck pain, and repetitive movement as a result of their work. All of the above lead to muscle imbalances, which in turn leads to poor posture, and ultimately to improper movement where inures occur.
Flexibility is the ability to move a joint through its complete range of motion. The better your range of motion, the more you utilize the full length of muscles to exhibit strength or reduce the muscle tension. Let’s take a look at the benefits of the stretching.
- Improved performance of daily activities
- Improved performance in exercise and sport
- Increased strength and endurance
- Enhanced joint health
- Prevention of low-back neck pain
- Relaxation and stress relief (mental and physical)
- Decreased risk of injury
- Relief of muscle cramps
- Reduced soreness and muscle tension
- Improving neuromuscular efficiency and function
- Improved posture and balance
There are a few stretching techniques that will help to achieve these key benefits.
This stretching technique focuses on the neutral and fascial systems in the body by applying a gentle pressure against a foam roll, a hard ball, or a hard subject. This process will help you restore the body to its optimal level of function by resetting proprioceptive mechanism of the soft tissue.
This is the most familiar and traditional form of stretching. Static stretching involves stretching to the farthest point and holding the stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. Example: Quad stretch.
Active stretching is the process of using your muscles to dynamically move the joint into a range of motion. Example: Low side-to-side lunge.
This stretching uses the force production of a muscle and the body’s momentum to take a joint through the full available range of motion. Example: Leg swing.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
PNF is a more advanced form of flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted. PNF stretching was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation, and to that end, it is very effective. It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups, as well as increasing flexibility. It also improves muscular strength. This stretching is more effective when performed with a partner or PNF professional. There is one more type of stretching that might cause the most soreness and injury.
This controversial stretching involves bobbing, bouncing, and rebounding. This type of stretching does not provide adequate time for the tissue to adapt to the stretch and also, it initiates the stretch reflex and thereby, increases muscular tension. I would highly recommend avoiding this stretch.
Factors such as genetics, age, sex, body composition, previous injures, joint structure, activity level, etc., influence flexibility. However, everybody at any age can develop this important ability. It takes consistent practice. But remember, flexibility training must be performed gradually, slowly, and with the correct technique to avoid injures.