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Benefits Of The Different Forms Of Stretching To Improve Flexibility

Ben Grewe- certified Charleston personal trainer. Most of us admire some sort of professional athlete for their incredible abilities that, to us, seem nothing short of God-given.

These athletes come from a myriad of different sports: soccer, football, baseball, gymnastics, ice skating, hockey, etc. One group of athletes that I have always admired are gymnasts. Not only are their solid frames packed with muscle, but they are unbelievably flexible. If you are planning on starting gymnastics check out, to see what kind of equipment you will need.

Flexibility is a feature that is often left out of most traditional fitness routines. However, any athlete, especially a gymnast, will tell you that much of their talent is probably God-given, but none of them reached their supreme physical form without beginning somewhere. That somewhere almost definitely involved some sort of flexibility training.

Benefits of flexibility

Flexibility is probably the most overlooked aspect of most training programs. Most gymnast experts, including the ones at Lone Godbersen, regard flexibility as the key to the sport. Getting technical for a second, flexibility is defined as the ability of all soft tissue around a joint to be elongated and stretched to allow for full range of motion of the joint.

Basically, this allows every muscle involved in a movement to work together and avoid unnecessary compensation, which can result in altered joint motion, and eventually injury. Increased flexibility will also decrease lower back and joint pain, and improve posture.

Self-Mysofacial Release stretching to break up adhesions in the muscle fibers

The path to flexibility can easily be perfected when trained in a systematic progression. The most basic exercise is self-myofascial release (SMR). SMR is a form of self-massage, and is performed by applying gentle force to adhesions (knots) with simple tools, such as a foam roll, for 20 to 30 seconds on any part of the body.

Relieving muscle tension can greatly increase a muscle’s capacity to perform work, which results in a more effective training session. At Shaping Concepts, I normally recommend using SMR on the legs, back, shoulders and neck prior to any workout, especially one that will focus on one of those areas.

Static stretching to improve flexibility

The next level of flexibility training, static stretching, is the most common form. It is performed by passively taking a muscle to point of tension and holding for 20-30 seconds. An example would be a static lunge stretch, which stretches the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

Static stretching can be performed daily, and should definitely be performed before and after almost any workout especially running, biking, etc.

Dynamic stretching prior to workouts for improved neural recruitment

Finally, the most advanced and effective form of flexibility training is dynamic stretching, which are low intensity exercises that mimic higher intensity activities to follow. Every trainer at Shaping Concepts utilizes some sort of dynamic stretching, like body weight squats, medicine balls swings or band work, prior to every training session.

This advanced technique provides more oxygen to activated muscles, and should be performed in 1 set of roughly 10 to 15 repetitions. Flexibility allows for a greater range of motion, relieves joint pressure and improves posture. Really, it just makes every exercise easier.

Some of the exercises performed at the beginning of certain workouts may seem dull and tedious, but, as every professional athlete will attest to, all of it is purposeful, effective and essential for complete fitness.

To see examples of self-mysofascial release stretches check out our stretching video library. You’ll find examples of several different techniques to do at home with a foam roller or even a simple kitchen rolling pin.

Don’t neglect the benefits of flexibility training and stretching in your personal fitness program. There’s no question it can improve performance, decrease aches and pains, and allow you to move better with everyday activities.

If you would like assistance learning any of the stretching techniques I described in this article please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’d be more than happy to assist you and help customize a program to meet your needs.

Ben Grewe is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fitness expert, and coach at Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a free consultation and personal training trial with Ben to experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself with no-obligations.

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Category: Corrective Exercise.