How To Stretch Your Muscles Properly

How To Stretch Your Muscles Properly
How To Stretch Your Muscles Properly

Stretch Your Muscles Properly!

Do you have difficulty stooping down, getting up off the floor or up out of bed? Do activities that used to feel fluid, now feel awkward?

Tight muscles can contribute to joint pain, back pain, neck pain & overall stiffness. This, in turn, causes general dis-ease of movement. Will stretching your muscles help? You betcha! But only if you stretch your muscles properly.

A safe flexibility routine with correct techniques:

  • Lengthens muscles
  • Increases joint health &
  • Actually keeps muscles stronger.

All allowing you to move free & easy!

When is The Opportune Time to Stretch Your Muscles?

Your muscles respond the best to a stretch when they are warm. Plan your flexibility routine directly after a shower, with a moist heating pad or even in a hot tub.

Another great time to stretch is directly after cardiovascular exercise.

Weight-training too! Each time you finish a weight training set, immediately stretch the muscle you just used! It’s just logical. Your muscle will never be as warm as it is immediately after a weight-lifting set & hey, you have to rest anyway. Think of it as the opportune moment.

Most people save their flexibility routine for the end of the workout. By all means, stretch at the end as well.

Is Balancing & Stretching at the Same Time More Efficient?

No! Not efficient at all. Training for balance is important, but not during a stretch.

Muscles need to be “turned-off” & relaxed to allow them to fully lengthen. In other words, if your muscles are busy contracting in an attempt to balance your body against gravity, they can’t possibly be getting a good stretch.

During your flexibility routine look for ways to be as stable as possible, even up against a wall if necessary.

How Does Stretching Make Your Muscles Stronger?

A muscle cell is called a “muscle fibre”.

Each muscle fibre is made up of millions of microscopic contractile units. It can be difficult to picture that.

Think of two combs. Place the “teeth” of the combs so that they are facing each other – so the teeth are just touching.

How To Stretch Your Muscles Properly
A contractile unit at rest

Then, intersperse the teeth fully. This is just like a contractile unit performing a contraction.

How To Stretch Your Muscles Properly
A contractile unit in full contraction

This means that when you perform a bicep curl, you’re really stimulating multitudes of contractile units to contract simultaneously. After a weight-training set of bicep curls or lifting a particularly heavy object – the contractile units do not quite return to the resting position. In other words the “teeth of the comb remain slightly interspersed.

How To Stretch Your Muscles Properly
A contractile unit that needs stretching!

So, if you go to use your bicep again, it is slightly weaker because that slight interspersion doesn’t allow the contractile units to contract over the full range of motion.

Thus, your muscles are stronger when they are stretched out to their proper length & thus, able to perform a full contraction.

Is it Supposed to Hurt When I Stretch My Muscles?

Absolutely not!

Hidden within each one of your muscles are receptors called muscle spindles. Their job is to monitor any changes in muscle length.

Thus, when you stretch, your muscle spindles are called to attention. If you stretch too fast, or too far, the muscle spindle will stimulate your muscle to contract against further lengthening. This is the pain that you’re feeling. It’s a protective mechanism.

It’s important to understand that stretching into pain (while your muscle is contracting) has very little benefit, if any at all.

The Key is in Fooling Your Muscle Spindles!

What’s the Proper Way to Stretch? You need to trick your muscle spindles! In other words, ease into your stretch so slowly that your muscle spindles do not detect the change.

As you ease into your stretch, you’ll eventually come to feel a slight pull. That’s where you stop & hold. Wait until the pull disappears, then slowly ease deeper into the stretch, again stopping when you feel the pull.

Hold each stretch for a total of one minute (by the clock).

Why do People Lose Flexibility as They Age?

Think of an elderly person walking down the street. Do you envision stiffness & short, slow movements? Most do.

Why do people lose their flexibility as they age?

Collegen fibres & elastin fibre are found in varying amounts throughout our soft tissues. Through both aging & injury, there is an ongoing cross-linking of both of these fibres. The cross-links are usually laid down in an irregular manner causing us to lose both resiliency & extensibility.

It is thought that a steady diet of stretching can prevent some of this cross-linking from occurring, or at least force the cross-linking to occur in a stretched out manner. This allows us to retain flexibility as we age.

A daily stretch routine done safely & on a consistent basis will give you ease of movement for life!

Heed These Warnings!

  • Prolonged rounding out of your lower back can be harmful to your intervertebral discs & can cause severe lower back pain.
  • Twisting or torquing in your lower back can be harmful to your intervertebral discs & can cause severe lower back pain.
  • Twisting or torquing in your pelvic region can cause slight subluxations to your sacroiliac joints which can cause severe pain in your lower back & sacral area.
  • Stretching too fast, too far, when your muscles are cold, or bouncing in a stretch can cause your muscles to tear.

How To Stretch Your Muscles Properly

  • First of all, heed the above warnings!
  • Stretching is the polar opposite of exercise. It is slow & relaxing.
  • Warm up with a heating pad, shower, hot tub or exercise prior to stretch routine.
  • Move slowly until you feel only a slight stretch & then hold for one minute by the clock.
  • If you no longer feel the stretch sensation, it’s okay to slowly move further into the stretch.
  • Performing your flexibility routine on a carpet or thick mat with be more comfortable.
  • This is an opportune time to hydrate.

Now you know how to stretch your muscles properly. You’re ready to begin Your Daily Stretch Routine!

– LEONG Orthopaedic Health

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