Are you stretching properly? Many people believe that stretching is the warm-up phase of exercise, when actually it should be done after the warm-up phase. Warming up consists of exercises performed immediately before an activity to increase circulation and heart rate.
By warming up, the muscle temperature is increased and allows for a greater stretch and reduces the chances of injury from stretching. Stretching also should be completed after exercise. The tissue temperature is at its highest, allowing for a more safe and productive stretch.
How long do you stretch?
Many studies have been done to determine the best length of time to stretch and how many times it should be done. For an after warm-up stretch, a consensus of two to three repetitions of each stretch held for 10 seconds or one repetition of 20 to 30 seconds. As training increases, the number of repetitions also should increase. Non-athletes should stretch once a day, three to five times a week; while athletes should stretch two to three times a day up to six days a week.
Why should you stretch?
Stretching is an important part of an exercise program. It is only beneficial if done properly. When performed properly stretching:
Optimizes an athlete's learning, practice and performance of skilled movements.
Increases mental and physical relaxation.
Promotes development of body awareness.
Reduces risk of muscle strains and joint sprains.
Reduces risk of back problems.
Reduces muscle soreness.
Reduces muscle tension.