Stretching and flexibility exercises are another valuable tool we can easily supplement into our home exercise program. Stretching can assist with improving our range of motion in tight or stubborn joints. Stretching can also assist with recovery and pain after exercising if we bit off more than we can chew. Reduced joint range of motion can also put us at a higher risk of injury, so it is important that we make it a regular part of our programming, particularly if there is some tightness there!
Important cues and points to remember:
To get the most out of a stretch we need to consider a few things. Firstly, we need to be warm. Our muscles can be either elastic or viscous, depending on a few factors.
· Elastic, meaning that once stretched they will return to their original state
· Viscous, meaning they will work with the stretch that is applied.
Thus, we want to ensure our muscles are as viscous as possible to get the most out of our exercises. To do so:
1. Our muscles need to be warm:
Increasing the temperature of our muscles can assist in getting more out of our stretch. This can be done by completing a light warm up or as we recommend, completing your stretches at the end of your workout.
2. You need to relax:
Our muscles are controlled by our brain and central nervous system. If we are stressed and tense our muscles may express similar properties. When stretching we want to relax into the stretch and practice deep diaphragmatic breathing (check out the “EHA at Home – Core Exercise” article if you’re unsure about diaphragmatic breathing).
3. You should only have a feeling of “slight discomfort”:
Obviously, if you’re in significant pain when you’re stretching, you’re more than likely not going to be very relaxed. When stretching you only want to hold a position of slight discomfort. As the stretch eases and this sensation reduces you can stretch further, ensuring you stay relaxed.
4. Stretches need to be held for a minimum of 20-40sec:
Our central nervous system processes the capacity to prevent our muscles from stretching too far. In all our muscles we have a sensory receptor complex called the golgi tendon organ complex. This complex when we aren’t stretching sends information to the brain about our muscle position to prevent injury or tell us we are about to fall over. This process relaxes after 20-40sec. Therefore stretching for 20-40sec allows us to achieve a greater stretch.