What are the benefits of stretching?
Stretching offers similar benefits to practicing yoga or pilates. Greater flexibility and mobility and a reduction in painful symptoms of the musculoskeletal system are the most obvious benefits.
As with yoga and pilates, it is also important to breathe correctly in stretching. It should be remembered that the muscles have a natural tendency to relax during exhalation and to contract with inhalation.
An interesting aspect of stretching is that it can be done without any equipment (at most a mat) even at home. A simple routine of dynamic exercises followed by a few static positions takes little time but can be very useful.
What you should be careful of?
Like any form of exercise, stretching also comes with some risks. In particular, it is necessary to pay attention to the following errors:
- Ignore pain that is not the burning of the stretched muscle.
- Overdoing the stretch.
- Stretch a muscle in extreme cold.
- Do static stretching with cold muscles.
- Doing exercises involving traumatized joints, tendons, or muscles without appropriate supervision.
Stretching does not represent a miracle capable of preventing any injury, as it is sometimes described, but it is undoubtedly a necessary and useful practice to complete a training program built with scientific logic.
Who should do stretching?
If you are someone over 40, I bet you are. Most of us lose mobility and flexibility over time and become progressively more rigid. Stiffness wears out joints and muscles, in turn inducing a state of chronic inflammation that involves pain and very often a reduction in the movement to which the person is exposed, thus triggering a vicious circle.
Developing and maintaining flexibility is, therefore, a fundamental aspect of a complete training program and is often neglected. Lower back pain, tension and neck pain, shoulder mobility problems, knee overload are all examples of functional problems of the musculoskeletal system that could be avoided or at least reduced with regular stretching.
This is even more true for serious athletes where stretching is essential to reduce the risk of injury and improve muscle performance.
Why stretching is important?
Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which the muscles and tendons are deliberately stretched in order to optimize their elasticity. This increases muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion.
Literally, the term stretching means elongation and indicates the practice of extending the muscle and tendon in order to gradually accustom them to a greater range of contraction and extension.
Stretching can be done in two ways;
- Static: a position is assumed that we are able to maintain painlessly for about 15-30 seconds or until the tension subsides, at which time we can adjust the position to increase the tension again.
- Dynamic: it involves movements (and not static positions) whose excursion and execution speed continues to increase. It is used in particular in warm-up because the gentle oscillations cause the muscle to experience a maximum range of motion in a controlled manner.
Basically, stretching is important for a number of reasons:
- Facilitates muscle function.
- It reduces the risk of injuries because it gently accustoms the muscle to the extreme stretch that occurs abruptly in training or competition.
- Reduces the risk of cramps and contractures.
- Increase the range of motion of muscles, tendons, and joints.
- Prevents the natural reduction of flexibility that occurs over the years.
- The sense of well-being related to the musculoskeletal system increases, which is often a source of tension, discomfort, and discomfort.
But beware that stretching done wrong does more damage than results. Pain, for example, must never be present except in the form of mild burning in the muscle that is being stretched.
When is the best time to stretch?
There are 3 times when stretching is possible:
- Before a workout: in this case, we should move towards dynamic stretching which becomes an excellent warm-up system in particular for the muscles we are going to train. It is important to start gently and gradually increase the range of motion. This is true both before a cardio workout such as running and before a session in the gym.
- After a workout: In this situation, static stretching is useful (which should not be done when the muscles are cold). Here, too, it is important to be progressive by increasing the tension as the burning subsides. Again, post-workout stretching is fine both after a cardio workout and after the gym.
- As a stand-alone workout: in this case, you can start with dynamic stretching and then move on to a complete static stretching routine. A session completely dedicated to stretching is also an excellent form of recovery after intense training periods.