Stretching is known throughout the exercise and fitness world to be something that must be done if the athlete wants top performance out of his muscles and body as a whole unit. But many people make the mistake of thinking that a few quick stretches before their game or workout is enough.
To get the most benefit from a stretching routine it needs to be incorporated into your workout schedule and consistently applied over the long term.
Learning What Kind of Stretching Routine Is Right for You
There are steps that can be taken to ensure that the stretching routine you chose will provide you with the most benefit, and also keep you injury free. The following precautions and suggestions should be implemented with any stretching routine you undertake.
1. Perform a pre-stretch warm up. While many people think that stretching itself is a warm up, professional athletes know that a proper stretching routine requires a warm up. If you have been sedentary prior to warm up time, take a brisk walk around, waving your arms and high stepping your legs to get the blood flowing. The main benefit to this is that your core body temperature will increase, making your body and mind know that physical activity is coming soon.
2. Start your stretching routine in a slow and smooth fashion. Starting off too quickly or bouncing while stretching may make the athlete feel like he has stretched, but this will likely do more harm than good.
3. Know your stretching limits. Completing a stretching routine involves knowing how far to stretch. Even though you may have seen many people stretch with extreme flexibility, the fact of the matter is that you may not be able to do that, as part of your stretching routine, at this point in time. Knowing your personal limits and not surpassing them is of great importance to the one stretching.
4. Feel your breathing. This is something that most athletes forget, since they think that stretching is just a physical activity. Breathing is just as important as the actual physical portion of the method.
Known Benefits of a Proper Stretching Routine
There are several known benefits that can be reaped from a correct, long term stretching routine that will work for athletes across the board. They are divided into physical benefits and mental benefits.
• Increased flexibility. By stretching your muscles, you allow them the full flexibility. This is an essential part of any stretching routine, since its success is largely dependent on this factor.
• By activating the parts of the body that are needed for the following physical activity, with a proper warm up and stretching routine, the athlete will experience an increase in blood flow to the areas which will be needed.
• Increased performance. The result of a proper stretching routine is that the athlete will be able to tap into his or her highest level of performance, without the need for unnatural stimulants or additives, which may cause damage to the body in the long run.
• Preparedness. The brain will be prepared for the exerting physical activity after a good warm up and stretching routine. Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation in order to reap the major benefits of stretching.
• Peace of mind. Extreme physical activity can cause stress, but if a proper stretching routine is undertaken, the one stretching will experience a peace of mind not found otherwise.
Article by Brad Walker and The Stretching Institute. Brad is a leading stretching and sports injury consultant with more than 20 years experience in the health and fitness industry.