Everyone—even the most sedentary person—needs a certain level of flexibility and mobility. But how much flexibility does a person need? Most people have an adequate capacity of flexibility to meet their basic daily activities and even emergencies (for example falling on ice), but not stretch properly could lead to injury or shortened or tightened muscles.
Why it’s important to stretch.
As with all other motor abilities, the potential to increase joint flexibility to an extreme degree is to a certain extent genetically predetermined. Younger bodies are generally more flexible than older bodies and women are usually more flexible than men. Flexibility is affected by past injuries, strength levels, core temperature, time of day, and even mood, stress levels, and personality type. A fairly strong anecdotal association exists between inflexible personalities and physical inflexibility.
4 Stretching Mistakes
1. Overemphasize flexibility training. Most fitness enthusiasts typically tend to overemphasize flexibility training, to the point of neglecting their development of functional strength while in the stretched position. Significantly improving your joints’ ROM without also improving the strength of your surrounding musculature (especially at its new ROM) can lead to injury.
2. Poor position and speed specificity. For maximum effectiveness, stretching exercises must be very similar in form and speed to the skill you are trying to improve. For example, slow, static stretching will not improve high and fast kicking movements nearly as well as dynamic stretching movements will. Conversely, dynamic stretching methods have limited ability to improve a static skill, such as a split on the floor.
3. Shortened or Extended Duration of Stretching Time. Ideal stretching duration can vary depending on many factors, but it’s mostly based on the type of stretching method being used. Dynamic stretching, for instance, involves several “swings” that last only a moment or so each. Static-active and contract-relax methods involve longer periods lasting 20 seconds to 1 minute. A static stretch should be held for at least 20 seconds, in order to overcome the stretch reflex. Stretching sessions rarely last more than 20 minutes, with each muscle normally taking 2 to 3 minutes at most. The agonizing stretching sessions used by many martial artists, gymnasts, and dancers are probably no more effective (and may actually result in scarification) than longer sessions of lesser intensities.
4. Improper Breathing. It is important to breathe while stretching. However, there is no reason to overanalyze breathing patterns; breathing is a function that should come naturally and instinctively. Breathe normally, and visualize the muscles, tendons, and ligaments lengthening during the stretch. Avoid holding your breath, because it increases blood pressure and general muscular tension. Correct breathing should enhance relaxation while stretching, particularly when exhalation is timed to coincide with the elongation phase of the stretch.
If you want to know more information about ways to properly stretch check out this article here.
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