If you follow high-performance athletes, you may have noticed that stretching is part of their routine. Still, many people have difficulty stretching, which can trigger several factors that can affect your life.
In today’s article, we’ll try to synthesize why you should stretch, the benefits of this practice, and the 4 common types of stretching.
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The Truth about Stretching
Stretching ensures you have a full range of motion around the joints, so your muscles stay flexible. In this context, stretching can help to improve your performance in specific physical activities that demand flexibility – gymnastics, dancing, wrestling, etc.
Despite what many people imagine, there is virtually no scientific evidence that stretching helps prevent injuries or increase strength. In fact, this study suggests that you should avoid doing static stretching as a warm-up routine before strength, power and explosive muscular exercises.
It’s worth remembering that, still, when executed correctly and with a proper strategy, stretching can be highly beneficial for specific purposes. Therefore, as always, we recommend that you talk to your doctor or specialist before making any decisions that could affect your health.
Benefits of Stretching
1. Improve your Performance
Although there is no conclusive data that stretching improves your strength, it can still improve your performance. Shortened muscles affect your mobility, and this can cause your body to recruit other muscles to compensate for your lack of flexibility.
Example: If you have poor hip mobility, you will likely have difficulty performing squats and end up overloading your lower back.
In this sense, having well-stretched muscles ensures that you hit and use the muscles in the right way.
2. Can Heal and Prevent Legs, Back and Neck Pain
Unfortunately, we spend more time working than we’d like, which can have severe implications for your health. We often spend 8 hours a day sitting with bad posture: tight neck, arched back, arms and legs in inappropriate resting positions.
Those factors cause the muscles in these regions to shorten, overloading and causing pain in other body areas.
In this context, stretching can help release tension from these areas, providing pain relief and better muscle health.
3. It’s Relaxing and Stress Relief
Physical and emotional stress can also cause muscle shortening, causing tension, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back. Often, a massage or stretching can be highly beneficial for stress relief.
If you like it, try doing activities like yoga and pilates, which, besides working full-body stretches, also focus on relaxation techniques like mindfulness and meditation. These can be excellent allies for relieving tension!
4. Improve your Posture and Balance
Two other problems that can be related to shortened muscles are poor posture and imbalance. Tense traps can affect your neck and the symmetry of your shoulders, while lack of mobility in your hip flexors can cause imbalance problems in your legs and even your back.
Remember that muscles, tendons and joints connect the entire body so that the malfunction of one may affect someone else. A good stretching routine ensures that muscles perform within their normal range, balance and mobility.
4 Common Types of Stretching
Before practicing, remember that no stretching technique should cause pain. Depending on your fitness, you may feel a slight discomfort while stretching, but you should stop immediately if you feel pain.
Said that, here are the 4 common types of stretching:
1. Active Stretching
This technique aims to maintain a position using exclusively the muscle group that is being focused on stretching. This method uses a muscle contraction (the agonist) to stretch an opposite muscle (the antagonist).
2. Passive Stretching
Unlike active stretching, passive stretching uses an external force to provide a full stretch – it can be a person or even an object. In this technique, you are relaxed and have no participation in the range of motion.
3. Dynamic Stretching
This type of stretch consists of doing repeated movements, using a flow or momentum to progress gradually. They are typically used as a warm-up, as they activate the muscles and joints in a full range of motion.
4. PNF Stretching
PNF Stretching is an advanced form of flexibility training and is commonly used in rehabilitation clinics to restore or strengthen a muscle. A specialist must conduct it and may involve various techniques, such as hold-relax, contract-relax, and hold-relax with agonist contraction.
Founder and Editor of TheLifesty. Passionate about Health & Fitness and enthusiast about changes. Interested in everything that improves the quality of life.