Flexibility & Stretching
When people talk about flexibility and stretching we often think about stretching before sports activities. Yes, stretching exercises before participating in sports activities is important to avoid injury, but a regular daily stretching program has many other benefits.
A regular stretching routine helps improve flexibility. Flexibility can be defined as the ability of a joint to move through a range of motion. How much movement a joint has depends greatly on the tightness of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are attached to the joint. For instance, how far a person can bend their knee depends on the tightness of tissues around the joint. Flexibility around a joint is important for maintaining joint health and preventing injuries.
Even if someone has not performed stretching exercises for years it’s not too late, because flexibility is a highly adaptable physical fitness component. By stretching on a regular basis flexibility can improve.
There are lots of different ways to stretch. At Leigh Carter Personal training we concentrate on providing all our clients with an effective stretching routine, from simple movements that can be carried out at home to more complex techniques that must be carried out with your trainer. One of the most effective techniques is PNF stretching.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a more advanced form of flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted.
PNF stretching was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation, and to that effect it is very effective. It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups, and as well as increasing flexibility, it also improves muscular strength.
The process of performing a PNF stretch involves the following. The muscle group to be stretched is positioned so that the muscles are stretched and under tension. The individual then contracts the stretched muscle group for 5 – 6 seconds while a partner, or immovable object, applies sufficient resistance to inhibit movement. Please note; the effort of contraction should be relevant to the level of conditioning.
The contracted muscle group is then relaxed and a controlled stretch is applied for about 20 to 30 seconds. The muscle group is then allowed 30 seconds to recover and the process is repeated 2 – 4 times.
Below are some of the benefits of a regular stretching routine
Increased Range of Motion
Stretching has been shown to effectively increase range of motion in joints. Better range of motion enables you to keep better balance. Better balance means you are less susceptible to falls and the resulting injuries (of particular importance as you age). Increased range of motion also helps to keep you up and moving.
Alleviate Lower Back Pain
Millions of people struggle with chronic lower back pain. Stretching is an excellent way to strengthen the lower back muscles, alleviating soreness and pain. Since many muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back muscles and hip flexors) contribute to your posture, stretching these muscles has the ability to greatly reduce or eliminate lower back pain
There are four main measures of overall fitness: aerobic, muscular, body composition and flexibility. The main way to increase your flexibility is by stretching.
As you age, your muscles gradually become shorter and tighter, reducing your overall flexibility. This restriction makes you more susceptible to muscle, tendon and joint injuries. Stretching is primarily responsible for increasing flexibility, and reduces these risks. Increased flexibility also allows you to exercise more easily.
Everyone has stress. Everyone is constantly looking for new methods of relief. Like all types of exercise, flexibility exercises like stretching have powerful stress-busting abilities. Stress causes your muscles to contract, becoming tense. This tension can have negative effects on just about every part of your body. Gentle stretching exercises relax tense muscles associated with stress. Also, since stretching is an exercise, it has the same endorphin-boosting effects, improving your mood and the way you feel in general.