STRETCHING AND FLEXIBILITY
People often neglect to stretch at the end of a training session because they are too tired to do anything else. Or when they do, they just rush through each stretch and so don't get the full benefit of each one.
We stretch to improve our flexibility. Flexibility is the range of motion that is available to a joint or joints. Flexibility is important because:
It improves muscle balance around a joint, thus improving posture
It reduces the chance of injury when playing a sport or in every day activities
It increases the blood and nutrient supply to muscles and cartilage, thereby also reducing muscle soreness after training.
Stretching should not be done as a warm-up to an activity as you could injure your muscles if stretching them when they are cold. At least 3 to 5 minutes of cardiovascular training is recommended to warm up the muscles sufficiently. Each major muscle group should be stretched slowly and with control, holding each stretch for minimum 15 seconds. Hold each stretch at the point of mild tension or tightness, not to the point of pain.
It is important to stretch after doing any physical activity. When muscles perform any exercise, they tighten and shorten as a result. Stretching them out helps to restore and improve their length. When doing strength training, you could stretch each muscle group directly after performing each set.
Flexibility decreases with age, so that’s why it is important to spend time enhancing and working on flexibility by doing simple stretches daily or a few times a week. You are never too old to work on increasing flexibility. Stretching can help normal activities of daily living become easier, such as reaching up high to get something from a shelf, getting in and out of the car, or getting up and down from the floor or chair. Remember to relax and breathe. Stretch both sides of your body equally. Include stretches for your shoulders, arms, back, thighs, calves, hands, and neck.
You can do simple stretches for your wrists, arms, hands, or neck while sitting at your desk or while watching television.
Keep these stretching guidelines in mind to reduce your chance of injuring your muscles and/or joints:
1) Don’t stretch before warming up.
2) Stay within a normal range of motion; don’t stretch beyond what is comfortable for you.
3) Don’t bounce or force a stretch.
4) Hold your stretches for 15 to 30 seconds each.
5) Do each stretch at least twice.
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