Exercise is so important. It helps to keep your mind and body healthy, not to mention that it also helps you to maintain a healthy weight. If you are not stretching properly before you workout, then this could be working against you. You may find that you are not able to exercise as efficiently as you might want to and that you are also far more susceptible to injury too. It’s very easy to turn things around, and a few simple stretches could drastically turn the odds in your favor.
The Benefits of Assisted Stretching
A lot of studies have been done on the various benefits of stretching, and they have shown mixed results. Some research shows that stretching doesn’t reduce how sore muscles are after a workout, and some even indicate that if you hold a stretch immediately before doing a sprint, this can worsen your sporting performance. With this in mind, it’s important to know that almost every sprinting athlete, from Usain Bolt to Carl Lewis stretches before they run, and they have a lot of Olympic medals between them. It’s difficult to know if stretching can improve your performance when participating in athletic events, but one thing is for sure. Assisted stretching is the best way for you to increase your flexibility and this is a direct contributor to injury prevention. It can also make your muscles and movements more fluid, giving you a bigger range of motion in your joints. Better flexibility can help you to increase muscle blood flow and it can also help your muscles to work in the most efficient way. It can also improve your ability to do daily activities too.
In conclusion, assisted stretching might not make you faster, or more athletic, but it can certainly help you to increase blood flow, flexibility, joint fluidity and more, while reducing the chance of injury. It’s hard to overlook these kinds of benefits, and studies have backed up these claims time and time again.
The Dangers of Stretching Incorrectly
As mentioned above, some studies indicate that stretching doesn’t impact how sore your muscles are after a workout. Most people don’t know how to stretch, and if they do, they do not have the proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can do way more harm than good. You may find that you end up pulling your muscles and that you also put more strain on them than you should be. You have to remember that assisted stretching gently loosens your muscles prior to a workout, and you should not feel any tension, strain or discomfort during your stretching routine. If you want to try and stretch safely, then this part of the guide will help you to ensure that you are capitalizing on the biggest benefits.
How to Stretch Safely
If you want to make sure that you are stretching safely so that you can prevent injury, then you need to utilize these top tips.
Stretching is Not a Warmup
You should never consider stretching to be a warmup. You may end up hurting yourself if you try and stretch cold muscles, and this is a mistake that a lot of people make. If possible, before you stretch, you need to do a minor warm-up first. You may want to do some light walking, jogging or even biking at a low intensity. You should aim to do this for around 5 minutes. This will warm up your muscles and it will give you the chance to stretch them properly, without the worry of stretching cold, tight muscles.
Strive for Symmetry
Everyone has different genetics, and this can influence your flexibility more than you realize. Do not strive to have the flexibility of a gymnast or even a dancer, and instead, focus on having the same level of flexibility on both sides of your body. This is especially the case if you have experienced an injury in the past. You should know that if you do not have equal flexibility on both sides then this can put you at a higher risk of injury.
Focusing on Major Groups
You also need to make sure that you are focusing on major muscle groups where possible. This could include your hips, lower back, thighs, calves, shoulders, and neck. You need to also make sure that you stretch properly on both sides.
A lot of people bounce when they stretch. This is a huge mistake, and it’s things like this that often go on to cause injury. Stretching should be a smooth motion. You also need to hold your stretch for around 30 seconds. If you have problem areas, then you should try and hold the stretch for around 60 seconds. Expect to feel some light tension when you stretch, but stop if you feel pain. If you feel pain, then you have pushed it too far.
The Link Between Flexibility and Sporting Injuries
Achieving some degree of flexibility is vital for athletes or those who actively participate in sport. If you don’t have any flexibility, then your body tissue will break down eventually and this will cause injury. If you do not stretch, then it’s truly only a matter of time before you experience an injury. If you are tight in certain parts of the body, then you may find that you are continuously operating below your potential.
Assisted stretching is the best way for you to improve flexibility as well. If you want to improve your flexibility, then you need to understand some of the science that underpins the stretching principles. This is crucial if you want to avoid direct injury from trying something new.
How does Science Support Flexibility?
A lot of coaches, sports medicine professionals, and athletes use assisted stretching as part of a solid training routine. A lot of people would agree that it forms an integral part of training, and it also helps to prepare the body for what is to come. It’s important to highlight that flexibility is very joint-specific, you cannot assess whether or not someone has good flexibility because they are able to touch their toes. The same person might not be able to stretch and scratch the small of their back because their shoulder flexibility is not good. The second point to take note of is that stretching is specific to sports. You would not expect someone who plays rugby to have the same level of flexibility as someone who is an Olympic gymnast, purely because it is not required.
Components of Flexibility
Flexibility has two very different components. You have static flexibility and dynamic flexibility. Static flexibility refers to the range of motion you have, without any movement. This could be the range of movement you can achieve without any resistance. One example of this would be if you were holding a hamstring stretch, in an end-of-range position.
Next up is dynamic flexibility. This describes the range of motion at a certain velocity. This can refer to someone who throws javelins, or a baseball pitcher, who needs a high level of rotational flexibility, both athletes need to do this at a very rapid speed. It’s important to know that high static flexibility is a prerequisite for good dynamic flexibility. Good flexibility allows your joints to have a higher range of motion. It’s what allows a swimmer to glide their arm through the water by keeping their shoulders elevated and it also means that there is not any undue stress being placed on the surrounding tissue. For this reason, it is essential for injury prevention.
Assisted Stretching and Rehabilitation
Assisted stretching is also a very important part of rehabilitation, should you experience an injury. It is generally accepted that if you have a muscle tear that this will heal through scar tissue. Scar tissue tends to have more resistance when compared to healthy muscle. For this reason, if you stretch at the right time, you may find that this helps the healing process, and it also helps to lengthen the contracted tissue too.
The term relative flexibility can be used to describe how the body is able to achieve a movement through a series of joints. In order for the body to achieve a certain range of motion, the body will usually move through the path of least resistance, or the area that has the greatest amount of flexibility. One good way for you to look at this would be for you to imagine a rower who is in the catch position. The rower will have to make sure that their hands are past their feet so that they can ensure a good amount of drive through the oar. If the rower has tight hips and they cannot flex, the body will find a way to compensate for this, such as by flexing the thoracic and lumbar spine. The spine will have more relative flexibility and will contribute to the range of motion. The back will exhibit movement that is not ideal, and this can lead to thoracic dysfunction and lumbar pain. In instances like this, it’s important to know that no amount of stretching will prevent injury. One way that assisted stretching would help however, is by increasing the range of flexibility in the hip, allowing the rower to complete the range of motion without relying on their back or lumbar system. This would prevent injury and make the rower much more able to do their job to the highest level of performance.
Myth Busting- Does Assisted Stretching Stop Injures?
So, as you can see, stretching doesn’t directly correlate to injury. A lot of studies have been done on this, and it shows that there is in fact, no link. That being said, assisted stretching has a huge role to play in your general flexibility, and flexibility does have a direct link to exercise and injury. Take a look at the rower example above and you’ll soon see how assisted stretching will not prevent injury, but it will increase range of motion, which inadvertently prevents injury in the future. So, with this in mind, is assisted stretching important? Absolutely.
Assisted stretching is imperative if you are an athlete or if you simply lead an active lifestyle. If you do not have any kind of stretching activity as part of your lifestyle right now, then you could be doing yourself way more harm than good. You may find that you are not able to increase your joint flexibility, and this can work against you. In some instances, you may not even know that other muscle groups are compensating for your lack of flexibility either and this is where things can become dangerous. Even if you do not train for a sport, assisted stretching is still important. Those who are just active in general should try and stretch on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be before you walk, or workout. It can be done after in fact because you are working on increasing your flexibility, and as mentioned above, your stretches should never be classed as being a warm-up.
Ideally, you need to try and stretch at least once a day. Focusing on your big muscle groups is key here because if you can do this, then you will soon find that it is easier than ever for you to increase your range of motion and joint flexibility. It will take months for you to see an improvement in joint rotation and flexibility, so do not expect to see improvements overnight. If you can invest in your health, you will surely reap the benefits in the future.
Why not see if you can incorporate assisted stretching as part of your routine today? It has never been easier for you to start getting your body on the right track, and you would be surprised at how much it could help you to safeguard your health in the future. This is the case if you are an athlete, or simply someone who struggles with their range of motion in general.