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How To Stretch Muscles Safely St. John's NL

An important aspect of your exercise routine, stretching muscles safely can increase flexibility, reduce risk of injury, and provide pain relief associated with exercise. Read on and learn more.

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How To Stretch Muscles Safely

Stretch out for Health

At some time in your life you have had to stretch a part of your body for one reason or another. Maybe it was your calves when you ran track in high school; maybe it was your thigh muscles before that pickup game of basketball last weekend; or maybe it was the muscles in the back of the thigh last night to ease your back pain.

Regardless of what you stretched, do you remember how you stretched? Did you hold that stretch for a long time? Did you perform a bounce at the end?

Many of us are stretching the same way we did back in high school whether it be 10, 20 or 30 years ago. A significant amount of surprising research has been performed in the last 10 years regarding the ways we should be stretching, which is most likely significantly different from the way you stretched back in high school.

Stretching can generally be broken down into two categories: static and dynamic. Static stretches are the type that people are more familiar with. They involve bringing the body part to its end range and holding that position statically, as the name implies, for approximately 20 to 30 seconds.

An example of this may be placing an extended leg onto a chair and leaning forward to stretch your hamstrings. The static stretch has traditionally been the all-purpose stretch used to recover and prevent injuries.

Dynamic stretching is the newest form of stretching which is, in most cases, the complete opposite of static stretching. Instead of isolating one muscle or muscle group, several muscle groups are often involved. For example, while walking, one knee gets pulled toward your chest continuously followed by bringing that same leg forward and stepping into a lunge position. This would be followed by performing the same sequence of movements on the opposite leg. This continuous motion would dynamically stretch several hip and knee muscles at once.

Both of these stretches may be useful, but for different purposes. In order to decide which type of stretch you should perform you should ask yourself what you are trying to achieve by stretching.

If the stretch is for a specific athletic activity, whether it is for a professional soccer player or a recreational golfer, it would be advised to perform both static and dynamic stretches. It is now recommended that dynamic stretching be done as part of your warm-up routine to prepare the body for the upcoming activity in a sport-specific manner, and static stretching be performed as part of a cool-down with a goal of gaining muscle length and to prevent significant muscle soreness.

If the goal of stretching is to gain muscle flexibility for general fitness without a sport-specific purpose, then static stretching would be an appropriate choice.

The rationale behind these recommendations is based on the most currently available research and information. From the medical research it appears to be clear that dynamic stretching prior to activity can help to increase performance, while static stretching prior to activity may be detrimental to performance. The reason for the change in performance is likely because it has been found that static stretching causes a temporary decrease in the strength of the muscle stretched.

An example of this is statically stretching your calves and quads (front of thigh) prior to a jumping activity. Given the current research it might be expected that there would be a decrease in overall jump height due to a temporary decline in strength in those particular muscle groups.

It is important to pay attention to what your goal is for stretching. If you are preparing for an athletic activity then you might most benefit from performing a series of dynamic stretches prior to activity as part of your warm-up. As far as a cool-down stretch it is recommended to stick with traditional static stretches to help minimize muscle soreness and improve muscle length. If the goal is solely to gain muscle flexibility for general fitness then a static stretch would be more appropriate.

Rich Kosses, DPT, is a physical therapist at Spaulding Framingham. He is a graduate of Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Allied Health Professions and he has a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from Merrimack College. He has a special interest in orthopedics and sports injuries.

author: Rich Kosses

How To Stretch Muscles Safely

An important aspect of your exercise routine, stretching muscles safely can increase flexibility, reduce risk of injury, and provide pain relief associated with exercise. As most aerobic and strength training programs naturally cause muscles to contract and flex, it s important to balance the workout with lengthening, or stretching, muscles afterward.

Regular stretching after a workout provides various benefits including increased flexibility and better range of motion of your joints. Stretching also increases circulation, sending blood flow to your muscles. Improved posture is also a benefit of stretching, as is stress relief. Finally, stretching maintains the full range of motion through the joints. Coordination and balance help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you age.

To get started on a moderately difficult routine, you ll Need: floor mat or rug, comfortable clothes, tennis shoes.

To begin, incline your head forward, roll it from left to right, then right from left. Be careful how far you turn your head. Breathe deeply as you do so. Next, put your arm on your chest and grab the forearm with the opposite arm. Pull the arm until you feel your shoulder being stretched. Push the arm you are stretching the opposite way in order to contract the muscle if you feel your chest is stretching instead of your shoulder.

Extend your arms in front of you. Join both hands together and cross fingers. Push your arms further and try to push your scapulae in opposite directions. Next, lift one arm over your head, bending at the elbow. Hold the elbow with the opposite hand and gently pull your arm. This exercise should create a great stretch along your side. Repeat on the opposite side.

Now, standing upright and tall, pull one leg behind you and hold. Breathe deeply. Then repeat with the other leg. If you are concerned about losing your balance, stand a foot or so from a wall and hold yourself steady with your opposite hand.

For an effective calf stretch, stand a foot or so in front of a wall. Place your arm up against the wall while bringing one leg in towards the wall, while keeping your legs straight. Your body should for a 45 degree angle. Repeat with the other leg.

Next, sitting on the floor, stretch both legs out in front of you. Gently bending at the waist, stretch only as far as your arms will reach. Do not try to necessarily touch your toes. Keep knees flexible. The focus of this exercise is to stretch the muscles in the lower back, thighs and calves. Remember to breathe deeply.

Opening legs into the shape of a V, bend slowly toward the right leg. Do not bounce. Then bend toward the left leg.

To stretch the lower back, lay flat on your mat. Fold one leg onto your chest and hold. Remember to breathe. Repeat with the other leg. Then, bring both legs into your chest at the same time and hold.

Now some tips & warnings, don t bounce. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. If you feel pain during the stretch, back off to the point where you don t feel pain and then hold the stretch. Don t hold your breath while stretching. Try to relax.

Stretch both sides of your body so the range of motion is equal on each side. Begin all exercise with light stretching after a warm up, followed by a thorough stretching after a workout. As you become more flexible, you will be able to breathe more deeply during stretching, allowing your body to relax and achieve a deeper stretch.

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