Stretching is a component of fitness that’s often overlooked when designing a fitness program. Benefits of stretching are increased flexibility, range of motion and circulation and can help alleviate stress. Stretching exercises can also help to prevent injury. A muscle’s job is to contract and relax, and the majority of the stretching exercises we do for fitness focus on contraction. Thus, it’s important to balance that out by stretching out your muscles so they don’t become too tight and rip or tear.
There are different types of stretching exercises: Static and Dynamic. Static stretching involves stretching a muscle and holding it, whereas dynamic stretching involves moving that muscle while you stretch it.
Usually dynamic benefits of stretching are best done before activity (e.g., running) and static stretches are done after an activity. It’s important with stretching, as with any form of exercise, which you warm up first. Stretching a cold muscle can be like stretching exercises with a frozen elastic band. It’s best to get some blood flowing to the areas that you are going to stretch or move before you start to exercise.
Stretching exercises should never cause pain. You should feel a slight pull, but you should never take it to a level where there is pain. Flexibility will increase over time, and overstretching can be just as problematic as not stretching. It’s important to breathe while you’re doing stretching exercises, as this can help your body relax so you enjoy the stretch more. Hold a stretch for at least 10-15 seconds to loosen a muscle and repeat two to three times.
If your goal is to increase flexibility, then you’ll want to hold the stretch for 30 seconds or longer.