UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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Stretching often takes a backseat to many people’s workout plan. Many people consider stretching just something that you do if you have a few extra minutes before or after a vigorous workout. The primary concern is exercising, not stretching, right? Wrong. Stretching is just as important. Stretching lengthens muscles, increases muscle flexibility and enhances joint range of motion. This both improves your athletic performance and decreases your risk of injury which keeps you performing. Below are a few proper stretching techniques.
Stretching muscles when they’re cold increases your risk of pulled muscles. Warm up before stretching with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Stretch again after you are finished exercising for best results.
Hold Each Stretch
It takes some time to get in a good stretch. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds each. You may want to stretch for 60 seconds or more for really tight muscles and problem areas. Wear a watch or keep an eye on the clock to make sure you’re holding your stretches for long enough.
Target Specific Muscles
When you’re stretching, focus on muscles you use most often. Calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders are all regularly used during exercise. Make sure to spend extra time on muscles and joints that you have injured or tend to injure. Stretch both sides.
You may have been taught to bounce while you stretch. Try to resist this urge. Bouncing can cause small tears in the muscle, which leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. The scar tissue tightens the muscle even further, making you even less flexible and more prone to pain. Rather than bouncing, hold each stretch for about 30 seconds and lean further into the stretch with each breath.
Avoid Painful Stretching
You should feel tension while you’re stretching. Anything that reaches beyond a little bit of tension and into pain is incorrect. If it hurts, you’re pushing yourself too far. Relax your stretch until it no longer hurts and hold it there for the remainder of the stretch.
Stretching can seem time-consuming, but the benefits are well worth it. You should be stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week, to achieve the best results. Stretching every once and a while does not have the same value as regular stretching. If you start out strong on the stretching front but then begin to tapper of a bit, your increased your range of motion will decrease again. Force yourself to keep stretching to maintain a low risk of injury.
Stretching will help keep you limber and injury-free so that you may continue to get regular exercise. An active lifestyle can also mean lower premiums on your term life insurance policy. So not only will regular stretching protect you from injuries, but it can also save you some money!