I am sure you all have heard the words “you need to stretch more, it’s good for you.” What’s the point to stretching anyway? It is not very comfortable, can be a bit boring and can take quite a bit of time to see any improvement? Unfortunately, it is just a raw deal that with time, gravity, environmental toxins, injuries/ scar tissues and lifestyle choices, we all become stiffer and less elastic as we age. Stretching can help maintain flexibility as well as offer many long-term health benefits such as increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures, increased neuromuscular coordination, reduced muscular tightness, and increased joint mobility. Individuals with certain muscular imbalances or postural problems can benefit from stretching.
Flexibility is the range of motion possible around a specific joint or series of articulations, and the ability to move a joint is important for daily activities in general as well as for sports performance.
Some basic everyday examples are –
- Putting on or taking off a shirt, what is the flexibility and range of motion of your shoulders?
- Bending over to pick something off the floor, what is the flexibility of your legs and back?
- Can you turn your head and torso to look behind you while back up the car?
Now let’s take a quick look at some types of stretches: –
The oldest technique is ballistic stretching, which is repetitive bouncing movements. Which has been used as forcing a range of motion in common with dancers and gymnasts. It has been abandoned by almost all experts in the field due to safety concern and is just not a good idea at all!
Dynamic / Mobility:
Dynamic stretching mimics a specific movement or sport activity or exercise in an exaggerated yet controlled manner. Often included during the warm-up or in preparation for a sports event. Examples include mimicking boxing movements or a golf or tennis swing, and walking lunges.
Static stretching is passive stretching and holding of a muscle, in a controlled movement, to the point of mild discomfort usually for a period of time anywhere from 10 sec – 2 min. An example is sitting on the floor and reaching for your toes.
PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation):
Involves alternating stretching and contracting of a targeted muscle group to achieve maximum static flexibility, and typically produces greater improvement in flexibility compared to other techniques. It usually involves a 10-second push phase followed by a 5-second relaxation phase, typically used by Physiotherapists and Osteopaths. Yoga and Pilates often incorporate PNF into the sessions.
Active Isolated Stretching (AIS):
Similar in concept to PNF, the main difference is that with AIS you are targeting a specific muscle and only holding the stretch for a few seconds. Also, with AIS you are actively contracting the opposite muscle being stretched. Example would be stretching the hamstrings; you would also be actively contracting the quadriceps.
So next time you are brushing your hair, and your shoulders are a bit stiff and tight, instead of reaching for pain medication, why not do a bit of stretching!!
If you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.