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Stretching Essentials for Exercise

Now That's a Stretch

If you've been regularly stretching then let me be the first to say, "Bravo!" Stretching is an integral part of any exercise program, and too many of us leave the gym without even thinking about doing it.
Before you hit the mats for a good stretch use these tips from the Mayo Clinic on a few things to keep in mind:

  • Target major muscle groups. When you're stretching, focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play.
  • Warm up first. Stretching muscles when they're cold increases your risk of injury, including pulled muscles. Warm up by walking while gently pumping your arms, or do a favorite exercise at low intensity for five minutes. Better yet, stretch after you exercise — when your muscles are warm and more receptive to stretching.

There are a few more great tips so read more.

  • Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. It takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds — and up to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle or problem area. That can seem like a long time, so keep an eye on the clock or your watch. Then repeat the stretch on the other side. For most muscle groups, a single stretch is often enough if you hold it long enough.
  • Don't bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further — making you less flexible and more prone to pain.
  • Focus on a pain-free stretch. Expect to feel tension while you're stretching. If it hurts, you've gone too far. Back off to the point where you don't feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
  • Relax and breathe freely. Don't hold your breath while you're stretching.

Here are some of my favorite stretches. Tell me yours in the comments section below.

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