- Stretching: A specific muscle or tendon is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle’s elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone
Not to be confused with:
- Mobility: To be able to move or be moved freely or easily in relation to the joint or
- Flexibility: The quality of bending easily without breaking in relation to the elasticity of muscles
Why is stretching important?
Stretching gives us the range of motion our body needs to perform daily. Therefore, living off the ethos ‘Range before Load’ will prevent injuries. If you have enough range to perform the exercise you are performing you will not get injured.
However, there is something to be said about the age that stretching, mobility or flexibility disciplines are utilised. Mobility and flexibility are better to be worked on when you are young, while you are growing, and your growth plates are still visible. After they have fuzed (age 18 for females, 22 for males) adults work on stretching to increase their range of motion, prevent muscle soreness and posture correction. Adults can still increase their flexibility with the use of weight and correct PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) or Contact Relax Methods.
For those in the mobility, flexibility or stretching realm these methods might sound familiar to you, if not let me explain briefly. Your muscles have a stretch reflex. A reflex makes your muscles contract when they get to end range to save the muscle, tendon or ligament from tearing and causing damage; like a safety mechanism.
When you consciously contract a muscle at end range and exhaust it, it will lengthen and because you are contracting the muscle at end range it gives you the strength and stability to control this new range of motion. I believe these methods are the most effective for gaining and controlling flexibility, however a simple 10-15 minute stretching routine morning and night will control or maintain whatever mobility you have right now.
As a nation we are being more and more immobile, deskbound and injury prone. Perhaps if I tell you the benefits of stretching it might convince you to start. Stretching is a simple and effective activity that helps to enhance athletic performance, decrease the likelihood of injury, minimise muscle soreness, decrease stress and improves sleep quality.