Stretching may not be the most exciting part of working out, but doing flexibility work is just as important for a well-rounded fitness routine as strength and cardio work.
Stretching means to straighten or extend one’s body or a part of one’s body to its full length, typically so as to tighten one’s muscles.
Fitness experts say stretching is a must do before and after an exercise because it prepares the body and muscles for action, it can also act as a form of workout if done well and consistently.
Ivan Kiwanuka, a gym instructor, notes that stretching will also help improve one’s joint motion emphasising that it should be done by everyone on a regular basis. He adds that without stretching, muscles shorten and become tight hence the regular muscle pulls one may get.
“Some people think exercising is for sports people only, but that is a wrong mentality. There are some people that sit for so long and find it hard to walk as their backs and thighs muscles are affected, stretching will help loosen these muscles hence easy movement,” he says, “failure to stretch will result into muscle pulls and joint pains.”
Types of stretching
Similarly, Kelvin Onekalit, a gym instructor, notes that stretching helps the body get ready for an exercise yet to be done. Due to stress or over sitting, our bodies relax and so do the muscles. Therefore to avoid injury during exercise, one has to do stretching to awaken the relaxed muscles.
This involves the stretching of body parts one at a time without any movement for 10 to 30 seconds. According to Onekalit, this is an effective type as it improves the general body flexibly and amply straightens muscles.
Here, a body part is put on a challenging posture and simple movements are made while stretching. Kiwanuka says that this works better than static stretching because it puts the whole body in motion. This can be done for 10 to 15 seconds and should be done uniformly to allow the muscles to stretch in one direction.
This is somehow similar to static stretching and is the easiest. However, the difference is that an external body is used to help one stretch. That could be another person, an object or a work out machine where you can relax your body. However, Onekalit notes that the external body used should not weigh more than you to avoid injury due to excessive weight exerted on you.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
This also promotes high levels of flexibility as well as improves strength, and is performed by passively stretching the muscles. It involves stretching a muscle to its limit which triggers the inverse myotatic reflex; a protective reflex that calms the muscle to prevent injury.
This is also a prescribed stretch for patients with neuromuscular conditions like polio and was developed by Dr. Herman Kabat in the 1940s as a therapy.
Onekalit says that this needs a physically fit person because one has to put their body in motion and hang in there without any assistance but maintain their body in balance. This type helps increase flexibility, strengthens muscles as well as gives the body stamina. It also increases muscle elasticity.
This takes the stretched body part beyond its normal range of motion as it is made to bounce to a stretched position. Given that ballistic stretching activates the muscle reaction, it must be done with extra care to avoid injuries.
This is similar to passive stretching; a person holds your body or the part you are to stretch as you reject the force exerted on you. For example, have someone hold your arm in a particular position and then you try to push it in the opposite direction. According to Kiwanuka, this is the most effective
Tight muscles tend to cause undue strain on the nearby joints during normal function but can also get injured due to tightness.
Moreover, muscles get shorter and more rigid as we age,. Therefore, we need to maintain an active life to improve or maintain our muscle length if we are to carry on with life without muscle pain