How many of you pay attention to stretching? We offer a detailed analysis of why you should stretch, when you should do it, and what types of stretching exercises there are.
Author: Doug Lawrenson
Everyone knows about the benefits of stretching, but in the gym in the afternoon with fire you will not find an athlete who stretches after a warm-up. Most lovers of strength training believe that colleagues in the shop should not see the "macho" behind the banner, and therefore in all possible ways evade from this type of exercise. Thus, they make a big mistake, because stretching is a fundamental way of improving the health and functional training of an athlete. A good stretch will simplify your daily life and protect you from injuries during training sessions. Perform stretching should be after warm-up and before the strength training. This will prepare the muscles for the upcoming workloads and reduce the risk of injury. By including a set of stretching in your training program, you will achieve:
- Decreased pain after exercise
So, now we know the useful properties of the stretch, and, yes, we firmly decided to include the stretch in our training program, right? Then first thing we need to find out what types of stretching exercises we can perform.
All stretching exercises can be divided into 7 types:
Ballistic stretching is based on short movements with a chop that cause our torso, arms and legs to go beyond the permissible range of motor activity. During this "warm-up" you stretch out with the help of jerky technique, and stretch muscles play the role of tightly stretched string, which tries to return your body to its normal position. (For example, you can take repeated inclinations to the toes). This type of stretch is considered not very useful and can lead to injury. Ballistic stretching does not allow your muscles to relax and adapt to the stretched position, and instead makes them tense, over and over again activating the stretch reflex.
A few words about the stretch reflex. When the muscle is stretched, stretched and the neuromuscular spindle. The neuromuscular spindle is a receptor that records the change in muscle length and the rate of this change and sends a signal to the spinal cord. The spinal cord processes the information obtained and includes a stretch reflex, also known as a myotactic reflex, which prevents the change in muscle length and causes the stretched muscle to contract. And the faster the muscle fiber length changes, the stronger the muscular contraction is expressed.
Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of the body and gradually increases the depth of motion, speed, or both. Do not confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic! Dynamic stretching consists of controlled sweeping movements of the hands and feet, which (carefully!) Lead you to the limit of the normal range of movements. A ballistic extension exploits jerky movements with a chop that force parts of the body to go beyond the allowable amplitude. In dynamic stretching, there is no place for jerks and "convulsive" movements. As a worthy example of dynamic stretching, you can use slow, controlled hand movements with your legs or hands, as well as twists of the trunk.
Static stretching is based on retention of the stretching position. This means that you stretch as far as possible, and then hold the stretching position. The technique of passive stretching assumes that you are relaxed and do not actively try to influence the amplitude of the movement, instead the driving impulse comes from outside and is generated by a partner or a mechanical device. Static stretching is divided into two types: static-active stretching and statically-passive. In what follows we will refer to static stretching as passive stretching.
Active stretching is also called a static-active stretching. In active stretching, you occupy the required position, and then hold it without any help due to the tension of the muscles of the agonists. For example, take the lifting of the legs lying with a fixation at the top point without the help of improvised means, when you hold your legs in the extended position only due to the musculature. Stress of the muscles of agonists with active stretching helps to relax the muscles that we want to stretch (antagonists) by the principle of reciprocal inhibition. Active stretching increases the actual flexibility and strengthens the muscles of the agonists. As a rule, keeping the position necessary for an active stretch for longer than 10 seconds is difficult enough, and therefore stretching exercises rarely last more than 15 seconds.
By the way, many movements (stretch marks), found in various variations in yoga, are examples of active stretching.
Passive stretching is also called relaxation stretching and statically-passive stretching. In passive stretching, you occupy the required position and hold it with the help of another part of your body, or with the help of a partner or improvised means. For example, lifting your leg up and holding it at the top with your hands.
Twine – another example of passive stretching, because in this case, the floor plays the role of "improvised means", which helps you stay in a stretched position. Slow, relaxing stretching helps to successfully fight the contracture of muscles recovering from trauma. Of course, first you should consult with the doctor and make sure that everything is in order, and then you can start stretching the damaged muscles. In addition, a relaxing stretch is very good for "cooling down" after strength training, as it helps to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness after training.
Isometric stretching is a type of static stretching (i.e., no movement), in which counteracting the isometric contraction of the target muscle group is used, that is, the resistance to the muscle tension that we want to stretch. The use of isometric stretching is one of the fastest ways to develop static-passive ductility; The method is much more effective than passive stretching or active stretching alone. In addition, isometric stretching develops the strength of "strained" muscles (which helps to sharpen static-active flexibility) and somewhat reduces the degree of pain that many people are accustomed to associating with stretching exercises.
The simplest ways to create the counteraction necessary for isometric stretching is to use resistance with the help of a hand, use a partner, or use improvised means, such as a wall or floor, as a counter point. An example of manual counteraction may be holding the arch of the foot, preventing it from bending, while the muscles of the lower leg try to straighten the foot and pull off the socks.
An example of engaging a partner's help in creating resistance is to lift your leg up (and hold) while you try to get your foot back on the ground.
An example of using a wall to generate a counterforce force is the well-known "push wall" exercise for stretching the calf muscles. You are trying hard to move the wall from your place, although you know perfectly well that this is impossible.
Isometric stretching is not recommended for children and adolescents who continue to grow. As a rule, they are already so flexible that a strong stretching provoked by isometric contraction is accompanied by an increased risk of damage to tendons and connective tissue structures. Before isometric stretching, it is recommended to prepare the muscles to be stretched using dynamic strength exercises. A full complex of isometric stretching presents increased requirements for stretched muscles and should not be performed more often than once a day for each muscle group (ideally, no more than once per 36 hours).
The correct sequence of isometric stretching:
- Take a position for the passive stretching of the target group.
PNF stretching (the technique of proprioceptive neuromuscular transmission improvement, or relaxation after stress) is today considered to be the fastest and most effective way to increase static-passive flexibility. In reality, this is not so much an independent type of stretching exercises as a combined technique that combines passive stretching and isometric stretching to achieve maximum static ductility. Initially PNF-stretching was developed as a method of rehabilitation of patients after a stroke. PNF combines various post-isometric relaxation stretching techniques in which the muscle group is passively stretched, then the isometric contraction phase begins in the stretched position with resistance, and in the final phase, the muscle is again passively stretched with the already amplified amplitude.
As a rule, PNF stretching requires the participation of a partner who first creates resistance to isometric contraction, and then performs passive movement in the joint with an even greater amplitude of motion. Such exercises can be performed without assistance, but we must admit that with the help of a partner they are more effective.
Most PNF stretch exercises involve isometric contraction / relaxation of agonists, in which stretched muscles are successively contracted and then relaxed. Some PNF-stretching techniques also suggest contraction of the muscles of the antagonists, during which the antagonists of the stretched muscles are contracted. In any case, it should be noted that stretchable muscles should rest (and relax) for at least 20 seconds before performing the next PNF stretching. Below we will describe the most common methods of this type of stretching.
Admission is also known as contraction-relaxation. After the initial passive stretching, the stretched muscle is isometrically contracted for 7-15 seconds, then briefly resting for 2-3 seconds and immediately subjected to passive stretching, which stretches the muscle more than during the initial passive stretching. The final passive stretching lasts 10-15 seconds. Then the muscle resting 20 seconds before performing the next PNF stretching.
Admission is also known as contraction-relaxation-contraction, and contraction-relaxation-reduction of the antagonist. It involves the use of two isometric contractions: first a reduction in the agonist, then an antagonist. The first part is similar to the previously described capture-relaxation technique, where after an initial passive stretching the stretched muscle is isometrically contracted for 7-15 seconds. Then the muscle rests, while its antagonist instantly starts an isometric contraction, which is held for 7-15 seconds. Next, the muscles rest for 20 seconds before proceeding to the next PNF stretching.
This technique (similar technique is also called capture-relaxation-beating) involves dynamic or ballistic stretching in combination with static and isometric stretching. A very risky technique, which can be successfully used only by experienced athletes and dancers, who achieved an amazing degree of control over muscle stretch reflexes. It is similar to receiving-grip-relaxation, with the exception that dynamic or ballistic stretching replaces the final phase of passive stretching.
Note that in the capture-relaxation-reduction technique, there is no phase of passive stretching. It is replaced by a reduction in the antagonist, which by means of reciprocal inhibition relaxes and further stretches the muscle group, which was the goal of the initial passive stretching. Since there is no phase of final stretching, this PNF stretching technique is considered one of the safest to perform (less likely to rupture the muscle tissue). Many people like to make this technique even more effective by including the phase of passive stretching after the second isometric contraction, and although this can accelerate the development of flexibility, the risk of injury also increases.
Even more risky is dynamic or ballistic stretching, integrated into PNF-stretching techniques, for example, grip-relaxation-swing or grip-relaxation-beating. If you are not a professional athlete or dancer, you should not even try to master these tricks (the probability of injury is too great). Even professionals can not use these techniques without the help of a professional trainer or an experienced mentor. These two techniques have the maximum potential in terms of rapid development of flexibility, but only if performed by people who have a sufficient degree of control over the stretch reflex in the muscles that undergo stretching.
PNF stretching is not recommended for children and people whose bone system continues to grow (for the same reasons). Along with isometric stretching, the PNF stretch helps to strengthen contracting muscles, and is therefore well suited to increase both active and passive flexibility. And, as in the case of isometric stretching, PNF stretching requires colossal stress, and therefore should be applied to each muscular group no more often than once a day (ideally, no more often than once during the 36-hour period).
The basic recommendations regarding PNF stretching are as follows: follow the 3-5 stretch selections you have chosen for each muscle group with an 20 second rest between repetitions. And in order to reduce the duration of stretching exercises without compromising their effectiveness, within one training session we recommend that you do only one PNF stretching exercise for the target group.
With proper execution, stretching will give you more than increasing flexibility. Useful stretch properties include:
- Improvement of general physical fitness
Unfortunately, even a person who regularly stretches does not always do it competently, and therefore often does not receive much of the benefits of a good stretch. The most common errors during stretching exercises:
The standard warm-up should begin with rotations in the joints, starting from the tips of the toes and rising upwards, or from the fingers and lowering down. This simplifies the movement in the joints due to uniform lubrication of all joint surfaces with synovial fluid. Such lubrication helps your joints more easily cope with their functional duties during the main workout. You should perform slow circular movements, both clockwise and anti-clockwise, until the movements in the joint become absolutely smooth. You should work on the following joints (in the proposed or reverse order):
- Fingers and metacarpophalangeal joints
By the end of the warm-up, you will warm up the muscles and they will become more elastic. Immediately after a general workout, you must perform a slow, relaxing, static stretching. Begin from the back, followed by the upper body and lower body, stretching the muscles in the following sequence:
Exercises for static stretching of all these muscles you will find in a lot of books devoted to stretching. Unfortunately, not everyone has time to engage in stretching all the target groups listed before each training session. But even if you are limited in time, be sure to find an opportunity to stretch those muscles that you plan to load during the training session.
Finish your workout competently
Competent completion of training is not limited to a single stretch. This is only part of the process. After completing the training session, the best way to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness (caused by lactic acid production during maximal or submaximal muscle tension) is to return to stretching exercises. As a result, the final part of the training will be similar to the second half of your workout, only in reverse order.
The final part of the training includes three phases:
- Relevant physical activity
Ideally, you should start the final part of the workout with 10-20 minutes of relevant physical activity, the intensity of which will be slightly higher than on the warm-up. However, in real life you may not have 20 minutes for a hitch at the end of the training session, however, you must dedicate a specific activity of at least 5 minutes. The relevant sport activity should be immediately followed by stretching: first perform light dynamic stretching exercises until the heart rate drops to normal values, and then go to static stretching. Relevant sports activity with subsequent stretching will relieve muscle spasms, reduce tension, tenderness and muscle fatigue, and you will feel much better.
Light, final training exercises, immediately following the training with maximum load, effectively cleanse muscles and blood from lactic acid than absolutely passive rest. Moreover, if the next day you feel soreness in the muscles, an easy warm-up will be a great way to reduce the pulling muscle pains and relieve tension, even if you do the exercises not immediately after training.
Quite often there are feelings that indicate that you have reached the maximum level of stretching. This is indicated by symptoms such as local heat in the stretched muscle, followed by a burning sensation (similar to a spasm) and acute pain ("dagger" pain). Local heat usually occurs at the point of maximum permissible stretching of the muscle. When you start to feel it, you should take a "step back" and reduce the intensity of stretching. If you ignore (or do not feel) this heat, you are approaching the point where there is a burning sensation in the stretched muscle. At this point, you should immediately stop the exercise! Perhaps you still do not feel pain, but the next day she will definitely come. If you stretch to the point of acute pain, it is very likely that stretching has already resulted in damage to the muscle tissue, which causes instant pain and does not go away for many days.
Now you know about stretching everything. And there is no reason why you should avoid it!