Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Stretching is Important

I am in week 4 of P90X.  Week 4 is Recovery week where you get a break from weight lifting and focus more on core and cardio.  I have done none of that this week.  My lower back has always given me problems since high school and sometimes it acts up.  I don't know if it was from exercising our picking up my kids the wrong way or a combination of both but my back has been SCREAMING!  It has been saying to me, "you are not doing ANYTHING this week unless you want to cause yourself serious problems"  Sigh.  Instead of doing nothing this week, I have been doing Stretch X.  It is a whole hour of stretching every inch of your body and it feels so good.  I have been doing that instead and I think that has been helping to loosen up my back.  Honestly, I should be doing that every week.  I have never been a flexible person and I always under emphasize the importance of stretching. 

Stretching helps you in all aspects of life.  Here are a few reasons why you should stretch:

1.  It Improves Muscle Development
If you're doing a workout with the hope of building muscle then stretching is very important as it enables you to move through the full range of movement. This will also give you longer, leaner muscles.

2.  It Increases Range of Motion
Not only does stretching increase the range of motion for someone lifting weights while they're doing it, it also helps to increase range of motion and flexibility in general. For example, want to get higher kicks, be more flexible.  Your hamstrings especially have a tendency to be very tight, so the more you stretch them, the better!

3.  It Reduces Injury
Stretching reduces the chance of injury by gradually elongating the muscle. If you're more flexible then that will mean that you don't pull or tear a muscle if you are to slip or trip as your body is capable of reaching that position. In the short term it also helps to limber up the muscle and tendon and thereby prevent a pulled muscle or tendon.

4.  It Warms You Up
Stretching can be used as a way to warm up the muscles and it will encourage the flow of blood. This then provides the muscles with an oxygen supply as well as nutrients in order to help them to keep going.  You should never stretch cold muscles though.  Do some jumping jacks or jog in place to get the blood flowing before stretching.

It Improve Posture
Stretching can also help you to improve your posture and particularly stretching the back. It may also be useful for alleviating pain.  Plus, when you stand up tall, it makes you look leaner, which isn't so bad ;-)

When I do stretch more often, I do have less injuries and feel better in general.  Careful though, don't over stretch to a point where you cause yourself pain.  Stretching should be a gentle pulling of the muscles.  If you overextend your muscles, you can cause injury. 

Don't forget to breath either. Exhale when you are actively stretching the muscle and you will get a deeper, longer stretch!

Now, I just have to listen to my own advice! 

Also, here is a short video with some different stretches to get you going!

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