The importance of stretching

“The Bamboo that bends is stronger than the Oak that resists”
Hello from your friendly neighbourhood PT!

Today folks I’m going to talk about the benefits and the importance of incorporating regular stretching into your workout routines for better mobility, leading to better performance, both in and out of the gym.

So what’s the deal with mobility? Well despite the age old adage “no pain, no gain” I know I prefer to be able to move and train without feeling pain (the bad kind!), I assume the same is true for you as well. Hence why we have the mobility protocol for all our clients before working out. By warming up and stretching the right muscles before exercise we ensure that the skeletal structure is balanced, muscles are prepared to be worked by getting that blood pumping, transporting precious nutrients and oxygen to the muscles as well as assisting the joints to be lubricated and moving smoothly.

Spending just 5 minutes going through a full body warm up, then a full body stretch with extra emphasis on the areas that are tighter than they should be to make sure that your body is at its best for the workout ahead and to prevent possible injury.
That’s not all for stretching though; if you want to stay pain free and ease the post workout discomfort then stretching after is just as, if not more, important than the mobility warmup!
Those of you lucky enough to have had a session with me know that I am a huge fan of “PNF” stretching at the end of a workout. And no it’s not because I’m a sadist and enjoy causing pain. Well not the whole reason…. PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and without going into too much detail, it is a process that allows your muscles to be stretched beyond their initial range and in the end to lengthen and experience a greater range of motion.

Now PNF stretching works best when you have a partner to assist you but with the aid of a resistance band, yoga strap or even a belt you can perform some of the stretches yourself. My personal favourite being the hamstring stretch.
Tie one end of the resistant band/strap/belt around your foot.
Lying on your back, raise the strapped leg into the air and as far back as you comfortable can, making sure that your pelvis maintains contact with the floor.
Bend your other leg until the sole of your foot is flat on the floor.
Holding the band/strap in one hand take a deep breathe, pull on the strap with moderate force for 10 seconds, as far as you comfortably can, making sure your pelvis stays on the floor as your leg is stretched. You should feel some discomfort but not painfully so.
Still pulling on the strap, Breathe out and kick down as hard as you can with your heel for 6 seconds.
Relax and then follow this with another 30 second stretch but with a greater range than the first stretch.

It can be uncomfortable to spend time stretching after a workout. You might view it as boring, or painful. You’re mentally arranging your day and making a list of the hundred and one things that you have to do when you leave the gym, food and rest hopefully being in the top ten on that list. And in all honesty if you don’t stretch, other than feeling a little tight as you leave the gym nothing awful will happen to you…..(pause for dramatic effect)…..at first.
Its repeating that pattern, the habit of not stretching that leads to problems. Over time the muscles will gradually shorten, slowly leading to poor posture and pain. Not stretching the hamstrings properly can lead to lower back pain; as they gradually shorten they pull upon the pelvis causing posterior pelvic tilt, which changes the natural curvature of the spine.

Try to spend up to 10 minutes working through your body; once again focusing on areas that are particularly tight. Think of the 10 minutes as your meditation for the day. Bring your attention to the area that you are stretching, and most likely feeling discomfort. 10 minutes to forget about all the outside chatter in the world and listen to your body.

Enjoy!

Nicholas Poulastides – Coach at Rupert Hambly Health and Performance

 

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