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Stretching ...

posted 16 May 2012, 06:59 by Debbie Walker
Love it or loath it everyone will have done some stretching at some point in their life. For example when you're tired you stretch, or if you've been sat for a while, and it usually feels pretty good. 
Stretching is something that most people know they should do before and after exercise but don't, and don't really know when to do them, how and for how long.

As a personal trainer it's my biggest bug bear when you see people in the gym not preparing their body for their session in the gym or not looking after their body when they've just battered it.
Often people haven't been shown what to do so see someone else doing some stretching and copy thinking that that will be ok.
It's important to do the stretches correctly to actually stretch the relevant muscle and also stretch it sufficiently. Also it helps to know what stretch stretches which muscle so that after using them you are focusing on the correct muscles, not stretching something you've not used.

A stretch will increase the length of the muscle, increasing flexibility, increase the range of motion of the joint, reduces injury, increases performance.

However stretching if done incorrectly can cause problems, including permanent damage to tendons, ligaments and the muscle fibre.

So there are two types of stretching, dynamic and static. Dynamic is the stretching that should be done before exercise and static are the stretches that need to be done after exercise. If a static stretch is done before exercise it works like a switch and turns the 
stretched muscle off. So, for example, when you're at the start of a race you'll see some people stood there stretching their hamstrings and their quads, DO NOT copy them. They have just turned off the very muscles they now need to use to run. A better way to stretch them is dynamically. So, for example, you could start doing a gentle squat swing your arms above your head, repeating this about 10 times but increasing the depth of squat and the power of arm swing. 

In my training sessions stretching is something that I'm keen my clients understand and adopt as part of their training sessions with me or when going to the gym or out for a run.

Stretching Rules:
  • Never stretch a cold muscle
  • Hold static stretches for 30secs
  • Do not bounce a static stretch
  • If pain is felt reduce the stretch
  • Movements should be controlled
Most people don't have much time when they train, so feel they're getting more out of their training session when they're working flat out for the whole time, and then don't have time for the sedate stretching part. What they don't realise is that by stretching they are then going to get more out of their next training session and so on. 

Overall stretching makes the body feel better after doing it, and it makes exercise more effective and more enjoyable. Try it next time you're at the gym or out for a run. You'll feel the difference.

If any of you have any questions then just let me know. Happy stretching.