Mobility stretching

More often than not, we spend our time in the gym pushing/pulling weights or performing a lengthy cardio session. We then might shower, get changed and leave. However, one aspect of our health is usually overlooked. What about our mobility? 

Great mobility can be described as full range of motion through a movement in a pain free manor. There has always been the sense that stretching will prevent us from injury, but there is no real science to prove this. Stretching does provide benefits for our body though and we will get into some of those in this blog.

Types of Stretching: 

  • Dynamic
  • Static
  • Ballistic
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
  • Passive
  • Active 

Aim to spend at least 15 minutes of your day stretching. The two main types that most people think of are dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching should typically be performed before exercise, rushing blood into the muscles you intend to use. You are essentially warning your muscles that they are about to engage in strenuous workload. Stretching the muscle dynamically is moving through the full range of motion of the specific joint intended, in a controlled way without holding in position.

Static stretches are held in position, typically in their most lengthened state. This type of stretching should normally be performed after exercise. As previously stated, scientific studies have contradicted the prevention of injury theory that is mostly believed through static stretching. However, studies have shown that static stretching decreases musculotendinous stiffness and prevents the lack of free range of movement that naturally occurs through the human aging process. Aim to move through the body from top to bottom and hold each static stretch anywhere between 20 to 45 seconds each muscle.

Along with decreasing musculotendinous stiffness, stretching has been proven to improve our bodies flexibility. This will help us to perform everyday tasks to a higher standard without feeling restricted in our planes of movement. While stretching, we are increasing our circulation of blood flow to our muscles and connective tissue. Our veins and arteries carry blood all over our body and transport oxygen and nutrients to other intended muscles groups and also take away the waste products. If we are stretching regularly, we are putting our body in a more optimal position to carry out these jobs efficiently.  

You might be thinking, why does it matter what stretches I perform before or after exercise? If you were to static stretch before exercise, you could be potentially limiting your bodies muscular performance. To understand the effects of static stretching on muscle performance, we have to examine the acute effects of these stretches on the muscle and tendons. Prior to static stretching our muscles visco-elastic properties decrease for a short time with no long-term effect. These results showed no benefit for the outcomes of isometric force or isokinetic torque and some studies actually showed a decrease in these properties prior to static stretching for a short time period, primarily because of fatigue. Ultimately, this type of stretch could impair force production if performed before resistance exercise. This may not be ideal for any of you heavy lifters out there!

In summary, it may be beneficial for us to stretch for mobility purposes and will help delay the inevitability of muscles stiffness as we age. Just be mindful of what stretches you are going to undertake and when is best to perform the stretch. Hopefully this blog has given you a better insight and may even encourage you to stretch more!

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