BY Dave Millward
February 15th, 2021
Pre-lockdown, you would go to the gym with the goals of increasing strength, building muscle, losing weight or improving aerobic fitness. You do all your exercises and when complete, you skip out a really important part of the workout, which is stretching. Instead, you rush for the gyms exit doors and sometimes claim that you will do ‘the stretching’ when you get home. But do you really stretch when you get back home? We bet the majority of the time you don’t and the prescribed stretches on your program cards are left behind along with your good intentions at the gym. The great thing about stretching is that you can do them anywhere, outside the gym environment and without the need for equipment.
So why stretch?
- To increase flexibility – an obvious one is that we need to be flexible to maintain a range of motions in the joints. With age, our mobility is reduced and stretching can help maintain our ability to perform daily tasks with ease and without reduced movement capabilities.
- To improve physical performance – Muscles do shorten and become tight. This will cause muscles to become weak and therefore range of movement will be reduced causing a detrimental effect on performance.
- To reduce injury – Tight or weak muscles can result in joint pain, strains and muscle damage. Therefore, we are more prone to injury during everyday task or sports performance where these tight muscles are required to perform in a chaotic strenuous environment.
- To improve posture – Many of us spend the majority of time in a seated position, commuting to work, working 9-5pm at our desk and when we get home, relaxing on the sofa. This can contribute to tight hamstrings and hip flexors. Tight hip flexors can cause an anterior tilt, which can deactivate your abdominals and glutes muscles. The side effect of this could possibly lead to lower back pain and discomfort. Stretching alongside resistance training can help relieve this and improve our posture.
- To relieve Stress – Stretching unlocks physical stresses and this can help with our mental health and well-being. This is especially important during these difficult times
How and when?
Firstly, it is important to warm-up before stretching, as stretching a cold muscle can increase the chance of causing an injury. Think of a muscle like a piece of blue tack and trying the stretch it whilst cold, it will pull apart. Now warm the piece of blue tack by rolling it in your hands and try stretching it again. You will find when its warm, it lengthens a lot easier and is less likely to pull apart.
Incorporate stretching into your weekly schedule as part of your pre-workout and post-workout routine. In general, before exercise focus on performing dynamic stretches that involve movement to prepare the muscles for the workout ahead. After exercise perform static stretches that involves holding a stretch position for a period of time (usually for 10-30 seconds). Also stretch on recovery days to help relieve muscle tightness and reduce the effects of DOMS (Delay Onset of Muscle Soreness).
During lockdown, we have a stetch class at 5:30pm every Wednesday, as part of our online class timetable, live on Zoom. Our stretch classes focus on experiencing a total body stretch to leave you feeling relaxed and restored. You will get to familiarize yourself with certain stretches and will leave the session with some take away stretches for your own at home routines. If you cannot participate live, click here to visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel where we will upload the classes, so that you can still take part.
As always, if you are unsure about any of the information above, please seek advice and contact us and well be happy to help.
Until then, take care and stay safe