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You never have to talk me into stretching. For me, stretching is the icing on the cake, the be all and end all, the time when all my hard work pays off and my muscle tension frees itself in a strong, cleansing release. Yes, I really like stretching. If that doesn’t convince you to give it a try, maybe these tips from our panel of expert contributors will motivate you to include stretching exercises in your running or workout routine.
Learn the benefits of stretching and a few simple stretches to get you started.
Stretch for Stronger Workouts and a Better Body
Stretching is one of the most neglected elements of a proper fitness program. Stretching before exercise prepares the muscles for activity and reduces the risk of cramps and pulls. Stretching after exercise helps the body to recover faster and reduces the risk of various chronic joint/muscle issues; such as tendonitis, sciatica and plantar fasciitis.
Three Great stretches to start with are:
1. The Piriformis Stretch: this targets the piriformis muscle which is deep in the glutes and helps prevent sciatica.
2. Calf Stretch on a step/stair: this targets both major muscles in the calf (soleus and gastrocnemious)
3. Back Stretch on exercise ball: this targets the entire back as well as the abs/core and hip flexors.
Save DEEP Stretching for After Your Workout
Muscles are like spaghetti noodles. When they are cold, and you try to bend them past their resting point, they break and tear easily. When they are hot, they are more supple, lubricated and ready to discover delicious new positions. Deep stretching should take place after a thorough warm-up or – even better – after the workout is over.
The American College of Sports Medicine has recommended that each major muscle group be stretched in set of two or three, holding each stretch for a minimum of 10 to 30 seconds. This accounts for the stretch reflex, an involuntary muscle safety feature that makes the muscle tense to prevent itself from being injured.
Stretches should NEVER be ballistic or bounce. Focus instead on static stretches that are held in place. Enter a stretch slowly, just like you would enter freezing cold water. Wait for your muscles to adjust before you ask more from them. Yoga and Pilates-type stretches have become popular because it flexes one set of muscles while stretching another. So if you are short on time, and don’t feel like you can fit in a stretching routine along with your weights and cardio, consider Pilates and Yoga for a great total body workout!
Do you stretch after every workout? What is your favorite stretch?
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