STRETCHING SMART … IMPROVE YOUR LIFE BY BRINGING BACK STRETCHING

Stretching is an important cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and just like exercise; there are almost as many reasons to stretch as there are ways to stretch.

So what is stretching? As it applies to the human body; stretching can be defined as placing particular body parts into a position that will lengthen or elongate muscles and/or soft tissue. Typically the reason for why most people stretch is to increase their flexibility also known as range of motion (ROM).

Increasing your range of motion has many benefits: 

1. Having a greater ROM has been linked to decreasing the likelihood of musculoskeletal injury
2. Increased ROM makes you feel better, allowing you move with more ease and less “stiffness”
3. Even athletic performance can be increased by simply improving your range of motion:
Think about a golf swing: If you can increase how much your body can turn and rotate around your spine, more power and torque can be created. Resulting in a faster swing speed and a farther shot!
Stretching is incredibly versatile because there are so many different ways to stretch. Stationary, active isolated, passive, isometric, PNF, and ballistic are all names of different stretching techniques. Generally speaking, most stretching techniques can be placed into one of two main categories:

Static or Dynamic

Static stretching is your typical stretch that everyone knows how to do; typically a body part is put into a stretch position and is held for a predetermined amount of time (15 – 45 seconds) or until you feel the stretch effect ease and relax. Regularly performed static stretching helps to improve overall ROM and usually results in a permanent change to a person’s ROM.

Dynamic stretching is, the opposite of static, when a body part is put in and out of a stretch position multiple times in a short period of time (think bouncing a stretch). Dynamic stretching has more short term benefits and helps increase ROM by helping to lubricate and warm joints. Dynamic stretching can be useful when warming up before physical activity.

So what kind of stretching should you do? There is not necessarily a RIGHT or WRONG way of stretching. Each stretching technique has its own advantages and disadvantages. The key to stretching is to match your stretching routine to your needs or goals that you are trying to attain. A general rule to follow is to use a dynamic warm-up before starting exercise (this can include dynamic stretches) and stretch post-exercise. A five to ten minute dynamic warm-up will have considerably more benefit to exercise versus stretching. Of course stretching is always something positive for your body and can be used on its own or as part of your fitness routine.

A new trend to help increase ROM is “foam rolling” and while not a true form of stretching, it can be incorporated into your training regiment to help with recovery. Foam rolling or Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is in essence a self-massage. SMR typically makes use of a dense foam cylinder (foam roller), but can also use things like balls, massage bars, and therapy bands to help release or break up trigger points. Trigger points (also known as muscle knots) are patches of highly irritable soft tissue, typically muscle, that are NOT caused by a local or acute trauma. The act of applying pressure to a trigger point helps to reduce the irritability of the tissue and helps return it to its normal function… this is why releasing a trigger point feels so good! A normal functioning body is a happy body, so it is logical to say that there is a value to foam rolling.

Most of the population suffers from similar “tight” muscles. Hamstrings, hip flexors, neck and lower back, the piriformis are some of the most common muscles people seek relief from. Luckily these muscles can be stretched easily and often allow people a greater ease of movement or athletic performance. Try these stretches if you have any of these common tight muscles:

Hamstrings:
hamstring– Laying on your back with legs straight
– With aid of a strap, draw one straight leg towards chest as far as you can.
– Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on right & left legs
– Stretch should be felt in highlighted area

Hip Flexor:
hip-flexor– With feet staggered
– Bend knees and lower body close to floor, into a lunge position
– Gently lean back
– Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on right & left legs
– Stretch should be felt in highlighted area
Neck:
neck– Feet shoulder width apart
– Gently press both shoulders down evenly
– Tilt head to one side (ear towards shoulder)
– Using the opposite hand gently apply pressure towards shoulder
– Try pulling the opposite side shoulder down
– Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on right & left sides
– Stretch should be felt in highlighted area

Lower back:
Lower-back– Sitting with legs straight
– Cross left leg over right knee, so that the left foot is flat and on the outside of the right knee
– Place the left hand directly behind body
– Try to lengthen your spine (get taller)
– Twist the body around, aim to have shoulders line up with the body/mat
– Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on right & left sides
– Stretch should be felt in highlighted area

Piriformis:
Piriformis– Lying on your back
– Bend both knees so that the feet are under the knees
– Place left ankle onto the right knee
– Draw right knee towards chest
– Reach left hand through the gap between the legs and reach right hand around the right leg.
– Clasp hands around the shin (just below the knee) or hamstring
– Pull the legs in closer
– Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on right & left legs
– Stretch should be felt in highlighted area

FAQS about stretching:
Should I feel pain?
– You should “feel” the stretch. BUT if you are eliciting pain, you are stretching too much and should back off
Should I bounce my stretches?
– Unless using the stretch as part of a dynamic warm up, “bouncing” a stretch is not recommended.
Can I stretch for too long?
– Not really, if you hold a stretch for a long time you may end up causing a spasm (temporary tightening) to the opposite muscle or tissue. It would be very hard to cause damage from holding a stretch for too long.

About Paul Bradshaw:

Paul Bradshaw is a Kinesiologist at Sparkling Hill Resort. He graduated from the University of British Columbia Vancouver in 2010 with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. He is the lead Whole Body Cryotherapy practitioner and also specializes in injury rehabilitation and prevention, and healthy weight loss. Paul is also a certified Kinesio Tape practitioner.

Monday, April 04 2016

Posted by: Paul Bradshaw

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