Whether you are just starting out a fitness regimen, already engaged in one, or planning to start, knowing the benefits of stretching and observing it is key to a holistic fitness program. Gone are those days when fitness enthusiasts would approach training without stretching or warming up and guess what! Their joints and muscles had to pay the price. The same scenario would apply to a singer that takes on the microphone without warming up the vocal cords; vocal rupture is inevitable.
TYPES OF STRETCHING
The four major types of stretching are: Static, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, ballistic, and dynamic.
· Static: Extending a certain muscle or muscle groups for a certain amount of time. This is the most common form of stretching, especially after exercise as it helps lengthen the muscles to its original position before the exercise.
· Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): This involves stretching a fully contracted muscle through a joint range of motion. This stretching increases the intended muscles flexibility and range of motion
· Ballistic: Contraction of muscles to force muscle elongation through repeated up and down movements, with no pause.
· Dynamic: This type of stretching is done while training a sport-specific muscle group or joint. Dynamic stretching and Ballistic stretching are interconnected. For example, sprinters would stretch their hamstrings ballistically before a race.
BENEFITS OF STRETCHING
Some of the benefits you can derive from stretching are:
· Improved flexibility
· Muscular endurance/stamina
· Muscular strength
· Reduced muscle soreness, aches, and pain
· Good muscular and joint mobility
· Increased range of motion
· Prevention of some lower back problems
· Improved posture and body alignment
· Improved appearance
So, now that you know the benefits you can derive from stretching,
HOW OFTEN SHOULD STRETCHING BE DONE? According to a publishing by Harvard Medical School, healthy adults should do flexibility exercise or stretching of all major muscle-tendon groups-neck, shoulders, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles- at least two to three times a week. However, if you are currently engaged in a fitness program more than three days a week, it is advisable that you do light stretches before and after every work out session. Stretching helps to warm up and cool down before and after an exercise session.
Just like any exercise program, it is important to start out slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of any stretching program. The following is an example of a level-one NECK FLEXOR STRETCH:
PROGRAM: NECK FLEXOR STRETCH; LEVEL 1
· Sit or stand upright
· Interlock hands and place the palms on the forehead
· Pull the head back so that the nose points straight to the ceiling
· Hold the stretching position for 5 to 10 seconds
· Rest for 5 to 10 seconds between each stretch
· Repeat each stretch two times
· Use an intensity level on the scale of 1 to 3, with light pain.
· Duration is 15 to 20 seconds each session
· Stretch two or three times per week or as warranted by your current fitness programs.
DISCLAIMER: Please consult your physician before engaging in this stretching program, as the writer is not liable to any physical or psychological damage that may be incurred as a result of this stretching exercise.