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August 18, 2008

Stretching

I love to stretch because it feels so good. But does stretching before and after exercise improve performance and reduce the tendency toward injury? Most people believe that they should stretch before a workout to prevent injury and that they should stretch after a workout to prevent muscle soreness.

But studies show that stretching doesn't help with either of these things. That's not to say that stretching doesn't have it's benefits. Stretching immediately after a workout (actually after your cool down) helps prevent tightness. It's more important to warm up your muscles before a workout and stretching can actually reduce muscle performance.

Experience Life Magazine has a great article about stretching (can you tell that I caught up on my reading over my vacation?), and dispels the myths around stretching and its benefits. Following is a list of their smart stretching tips:

Smart Stretching Tips
* Do listen to your body and stretch where you are tight.
* Do stretch the front of your body — your pecs, biceps, abs and hip flexors — to lengthen chronically shortened muscles.
* Do maintain what’s known as a “general stretching program”: Stretch for at least 20 minutes, at least three times per week.
* Do consult a professional to assess chronic overuse patterns that may require specialized stretching.
* Don’t do ballistic stretches, the kind that involve bouncing or jerky movements.
* Don’t force a stretch. Find a tolerable edge and then gently breathe into the stretch until your body relaxes.
* Don’t twist your spine hard (or, some experts say, at all!) or hyperextend the neck, since it can put pressure on discs.
* Don’t hold your breath when you stretch. Long, slow breathing encourages your body to relax.

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Posted by linda at August 18, 2008 8:35 AM

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