Whether you are a seasoned athlete or a weekend workout warrior, it is important to stretch before and after a workout. The benefits of stretching go far beyond flexibility. When done properly, stretching can:
- Enhance physical fitness
- Enhance ability to learn and perform skilled movements
- Increase mental and physical relaxation
- Enhance development of body awareness
- Reduce risk of injury to joints, muscles and tendons
- Reduce muscular soreness
- Increase suppleness due to stimulation of the production of chemicals which lubricate connective tissues
- Reduce severity of painful menstruation in females.
Unfortunately, even those who stretch do not always stretch properly and hence do not reap some or all of these benefits. Some of the most common mistakes made while stretching are:
- Improper warm-up
- Inadequate rest between workouts
- Performing the wrong exercises
- Performing exercises in the wrong (or sub-optimal sequence)
There are several elements to a good stretch. Ideally, a particular stretch should work only the muscles you are trying to stretch. In general, the fewer muscles you try to stretch at once, the better. By isolating the muscle you are stretching, you experience resistance from fewer muscle groups, which gives you greater control over the stretch and allows you to more easily change its intensity.
Another important aspect of stretching is leverage. Having leverage during a stretch means having sufficient control over how intense the stretch becomes, and how fast. If you have good leverage, you have greater control.
Remember not to stretch too far beyond the point of comfort. If you begin to feel pain during a stretch, chances are you are overdoing it.
Stretch often. Stay flexible.