Stretching is the most neglected, and often misunderstood component of fitness training. The only reason to stretch is to improve flexibility. Do not count on it for anything else.
In 2004, the CDCP (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) closely analysed 361 research studies, and discovered there is no correlation between stretching, and injury prevention, or muscle soreness. To make a long story short, do not count on stretching to improve your performance, decrease your chance of injury, or decrease muscle soreness.
Most people are still misled by this flexibility training fiction. You should only be performing stretches to improve flexibility, and expect no other benefits. By clearing up the fitness confusion, and understanding this simple concept, you can correctly incorporate flexibility training.
Please understand that flexibility is a fitness program component you should not neglect. Many exercise participants forego stretching because they really don’t understand its benefits. It is as important as strength training, and cardiovascular work. Do not neglect it! You will be sorry in years to come.
For sports specific training, I do recommend focusing on maximum flexibility to possibly decrease the chance of injury during explosive, great range of motion sports movements. However, it is really about increasing flexibility in a joint for maximum performance.
For the best way to increase flexibility, perform your stretching exercises after your muscles have already been warmed up. I always recommend stretching after your fitness activity warm up, as well as immediately after a workout. To really improve flexibility, it is important to stretch while the muscle is warm. This will enable the muscle to be more pliable, and will decrease the chance of causing micro-tears while stretching.
I always recommend performing the fitness activity you are planning on doing at 50% of your exercise level numerous times prior to light flexibility stretching.
There are three types of flexibility training – static, ballistic, proprioceptive neuromuscular (PNF). I always recommend the safest technique, static. Static means holding a stretch, without bouncing, for 30 plus seconds. Perform the exercise 2-3 times.
The key to increasing flexibility is to progressively attempt to increase each stretching movement over time. Make sure you work on flexibility after each strength training, as well as cardiovascular workout. Attempt to progressively increase your range of motion from week to week.
Click here to see illustrated flexibility exercises.
I am pleased to say you now know how to improve flexibility. Please keep in mind current exercise science research does not support the fact that stretching will prevent injuries, or decrease muscle soreness. However, if your focus is to improve flexibility, you will quickly see great results.
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