Stretch It Out!

1. Stretch when you are warmed up. You increase the chance of pulling a muscle if you stretch when your body is cold. When your body temperature is elevated, your muscles are more pliable. Think of your body as taffy. When the taffy is cold you can’t do much with it, warm it up and it will stretch easily!

2. Hold your stretches for AT LEAST 10 seconds. Longer than that is better, 30 seconds to a minute for each major muscle group would be great.

3. Stretch everyday! Stretching improves your flexibility, which is the range of motion available at your joints. It is something that you can continue to improve upon, however if you stop stretching you will lose gains in flexibility fairly quickly.

4. Stretch all major muscle groups each day. This includes Chest/Back/Hamstrings (back of the thigh)/Glutes (rear end)/Quadriceps (front of the thigh)/Shoulders/Biceps (front of the upper arm)/Triceps (back of the upper arm)/Calves (back of lower leg)

5. Don’t stretch into pain! You should feel tension on the muscles when you are stretching, but don’t stretch if you are feeling sharp pains.

6. Stretching is a fantastic way to work on improving your posture. Poor posture is oftentimes caused by tight muscles. Think about this. You all know someone who is hunched over, shoulders rounded, maybe you yourself are! It is a very common postural deviation since we are all hunched over so much in life (i.e. driving, sitting at a computer) causing the chest muscles to be tight. In turn the back muscles are probably weak. An easy way to improve this problem is to stretch your chest muscles.

7. Stretching is a great way to help alleviate stress. Taking five minutes out of your workday for some light stretching can increase your daily productivity and lower your stress levels.

8. Don’t bounce! The general population should perform static stretches. Move into a stretch position and hold it. Bouncing while stretching will increase your chance of injury!

9. There are several factors that can influence your ability to stretch including: age, the shape of your bones (some people are just naturally going to be more flexible due to their bone structure), temperature of your body tissue, muscle soreness, how much muscle you have on your body, what types of muscle fibers you have and how tight the opposite muscle group is.

10. Always BREATHE into your stretches. Don’t hold your breath while you are stretching, hold the position and every time you exhale try to relax your body and move a little bit deeper into the stretch.

11. Yoga is a great way to not only stretch but also work on balance, stability, strength, coordination and focus.

12. Stretching helps to increase your blood flow and supplies joints and muscles with more blood!

13. Stretching everyday will relieve tension on your lower back and help to eliminate lower back pain. 90% of the population suffers from lower back pain on a regular basis and the majority of these problems could be relieved just from stretching! Tight hamstrings and pelvic muscles are a major cause of lower back pain, so stretch them!

14. Stretching minimizes stress, decreases stiffness and helps your muscles to RELAX!

You now have a better understanding of the benefits and techniques for this important yet often overlooked segment to your fitness plan. Start stretching today and see how much better you will feel!

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