When it comes to the benefits of stretching, is there a valid case for doing it? Most of the time it just seems like a drag to have to stretch when you want to get into your more enjoyable fitness routine, but honestly stretching can be one of the best ways to both optimize your performance in the gym, when done correctly and at the right time and on the right muscles.
Benefit of Static Stretching Exercises
Stretching tight also know as overactive muscles can be an incredible way to lengthen them back to their optimal length, allowing your muscular system to be balanced, allowing you to lift and exercise safer and more efficient.
When you minimize muscle imbalances it allows you to have what are called good “length tension relationships” which in laymen’s terms is basically saying that your agonist and antagonist muscles are at the right length they are supposed to be instead of one being tight (in a shortened state) and the other being underactive (in an elongated state).
How long should you stretch tight muscles? National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), who is one of the leading providers of personal training certifications, suggests that you should hold a stretch for 30 seconds. This stimulates what is called the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) long enough to signal to the muscle to relax allowing to optimal elongation.
It should be know that there is some controversy out there that static stretching affects muscular performance very temporarily when done before you lift. This shouldn’t deter you from stretching before lifting, as the timeframe is so small; just remember to do some warm-up sets before you go all out.
Stretching for flexibility with static stretching should also be done after each workout. This will allow you to set your muscles back to optimal length after working them in which they can become tight for the tissue trauma that comes from weight lifting.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
Stretching doesn’t always have to be about holding a stretch for a certain about of time. It can also be geared towards the workout you are going to be doing. This type of stretching is referred to as dynamic stretching and it allows you to essentially warm up the muscles you are going to be using during your actual workout regimen.
Warming up your muscles this way will make you less prone to injury as your muscles will be more prepared to do the lifts you are going to be doing, for example doing air squats on a day where you will be doing squats and leg extensions.
You can even do a full body dynamic stretching routine that will prepare your body even more, which you can learn a great routine in the video below.
Benefits of Self Myofacial Release (SMR)
The benefits of stretching are great but can be limited, introducing SMR into your stretching regimen can be another great way of creating optimal muscle length tension relations. SMR is a way of release tight spots and adhesions in your muscle fibers. But how do you release these knots? The answer is simple and all you need is a foam roller, or even something hard like a tennis ball or field hockey ball.SMR is literally one of the best methods of creating better muscular balance, and can release tightness and tension in your muscles. Its a way of essentially releasing what are called adhesions or knots in your muscle fibers, which build up for multiple reasons like performing similar daily movements or even sitting on your computer each day where your body is a victim to the forces of gravity.
Whatever you use all you need to do is find a tender spot in your muscle, the most popular muscle sites to foam roll include your calves, quadriceps, latissimus dorsi and the inner and outer sides of your legs, also known as your abductors (outside of your upper legs) and adductors (inside of your upper legs).
Once your located a tender spot all you have to do is hold it until it releases. This will take anywhere from 30 seconds to maybe a little over a minute, which you will know when it releases when you tenderness has lessened or is non-existent.
It’s really that simple, the more adhesions you release the more you will notice the benefits. Your posture will improve and you will be less likely to be sore in locations in your body that fall victim to your muscle imbalances.
Maximizing Your Stretching
If you want to take your stretching program to the next level you can even give yoga a try. It can be very relaxing, therapeutic and very beneficial to creating better length tension relationships!
It helps that there are multiple different types of yoga classes you can enrolling in, ranging from the likes of candle lit yin yoga to Bikram yoga as well as ones geared towards different goals or to better ailments, offering a wide spectrum of classes that cater to different needs and likes.
Some people even find that when they apply heat to their muscles prior to stretching they can maximize the benefit of stretching, as the muscle is more relaxed and willing to elongate for you.
You can also actually help you yourself become more flexible through breathing. The more oxygen you deliver to your muscles and skeletal system, the more you are able to release toxins that build up in your body, which when kept in your body they can cause muscle tightness.
You can practice meditation which can be great for both better breathing throughout the day as well as bring you more peace and calm into your life, as well as work on stomach breathing which is actually the way we are all supposed to breath, which can be practiced here and there throughout your day, which the more you do so the more your body will do it subconsciously.
The best way to learn how to stomach breathe is become aware of your breath and breath imagine yourself breathing into your belly button/navel area.
The most used advice on how to consume water is to consume half your body weight in ounces each day, which if you are exercising you can increase this as well as drinking anything that is a diuretic, water consumption should be increased.
Water and breathing really go hand in hand when it comes to releasing toxin build up in your muscles and entire body in general. You can flush out toxins by staying fully hydrated and eliminate stiff muscles that can keep you from being and becoming flexible.
At the end of the day, consistency is key. By integrating one, two or all the techniques above on a daily basis, will be able to become more flexible and enjoy better and safer workouts as well as deal with the physical challenges of life with more ease.
Try integrating some or all of these techniques for 21 days, as it is said that habits can be formed in that time-frame and see what happens!
GREAT SOURCES FOR YOU TO LEARN MORE!
If you guys and gals happened to enjoy this article and would love to learn even more about the stretching benefits check out this post that the great staff and Men’s Health created here where they talk about 7 different stretches this will help you immensely: Benefits of stretching
You may have also heard that stretching can help with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOM’s) but this has been proved a myth, which another great article by Men’s Health on the subject can be read about here: The Biggest Muscle Soreness Myth