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How To Stretch
The best way to stretch before, during, and after your workoutEveryone knows about the need to stretch, but most people prefer to skip the stretching and get to the good stuff. After all, stretching doesn’t help you get stronger, faster, or better-does it? Actually, the answer may surprise you. Because whether you’re lifting weights, playing volleyball, or running a few miles, stretching may mean the difference between a good time and a bad injury.
So what do you need to do to get the best stretch for your body, how much is enough, and when should you stretch your body’s limbs? Keep reading to find out.
Getting the Best
A good stretch is one that is slow and steady. If you want to hop on the fast track to injury, jerk during your movements and bounce the entire time. But if you’re more interested in avoiding injury, take your stretching nice and slow. When you feel the pressure of the stretch, pause and hold for a few seconds. Don’t go until it is painful.
You should also stretch out all the body parts you plan to use. In most cases, this involves stretching the arms, legs, back, and neck. On occasion, very specific stretches catered to a sport are required, but for most instances, stretching out the large muscles suffices.
A Measure of Stretch
Now that you know the need for stretching, you may be wondering how much is enough. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. For some, adequate stretching takes only a few minutes. For others, it takes longer.
The secret is to know your body and to feel when stretching has done its job. Does your body feel flexible and ready to move to the left and right as needed?
Then you’ve stretched enough. But if you still feel stiff and movement is hampered, keep stretching those muscles and ligaments until they’re ready to respond to the demands you’re about to put on them.
The Time to Stretch
In the good old days, stretching was performed at the beginning of an exercise routine, and for good reason. Stretching before you work out prepares your body for movements it will be making during your routine. But it has been found beneficial to make stretching the second part of your routine.
The first part? Warming up. This is best done by gently going through the motions of whatever exercise or sport you are about to participate in. Going to lift weights? Do some light lifting (think barbell only). About to play basketball? Shoot a few free throws and jog to the hoop gently for some lay-ups. Use this time to get your body warmed up and loose. Once you’ve done this, your muscles will respond more readily and safely to stretching.
And remember that pre-exercise stretching isn’t enough. In some cases, it’s a good idea to continue stretching throughout your routine. Just finish a tough set of bench presses? Stretch your chest and arms to keep your muscle fibers as long as strong as possible. Has a time out been called during your soccer game? Don’t just stand there and pant while your muscles freeze up. Take the time to slowly stretch them out so they don’t lose their elasticity.
Finally, stretching your muscles after you’re finished exercising helps maintain good blood flow and repairs the muscles you’ve just injured over and over during your routine.
Stretch for Muscle.
Think stretching is just for folks attending aerobic classes? Think again. If you're interested in growing your muscles, you can't get them to their fullest potential without spending some time stretching. So the next time you hit the gym, stretch well and stretch often. Your muscles will thank you.
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