Dr. Kyle Ross
Stretching is vital to any fitness program because it helps your muscles gently adapt to your fitness regimen. Stretching can help increase your range of motion, which not only feels good but also helps your muscles resist injury. What’s more, many people don’t realize how important stretching is to being able to maintain your ability to do everyday tasks, even as you get older. These tasks include reaching high places, bending down to pick things up, and turning around to grab something – all without pain. Gentle stretching before exercise and more intensive stretching after exercise are both beneficial.
What is flexibility training?
Flexibility training includes stretching exercises for the purpose of increasing one’s range of motion.
Prior to flexibility training (stretching), a warm up should be performed at a low intensity for 5-10 minutes. This increases the temperature of the muscles and decreases the risk of injury. Flexibility training is best performed when the body is very warm. Many individuals will therefore perform stretching exercises following cardiovascular endurance training, which greatly increases the temperature of the body.
Why should I train this way?
Flexibility exercises can increase the range of motion throughout a joint. Increased range of motion can improve mobility in sporting events as well as everyday activities. Proper range of motion in the joints allows for the natural alignment of the body to be maintained throughout the day, which may prevent or decrease pain or injury.
For more information on flexibility training seek professional advice from a personal trainer and follow the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines.
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Guidelines for flexibility training
Activities: Perform a general stretching routine following exercises that have warmed-up the body, targeting the major muscle and/or joint/tendon groups using static (non-bouncing) techniques
Frequency: At least 3 days per week
Intensity: Slowly stretching to a position of mild discomfort
Duration: Hold stretch for at least 10 seconds, working up to 30 seconds
Repetitions: Perform each stretch 3-5 times
These guidelines are for the general population to increase range of motion of muscles and joints. Athletes or advanced exercisers may want to consult a personal trainer for more specific guidelines.
Stretch after warming up the muscles and joints
Stretch slowly and smoothly only to the point of mild discomfort; avoid bouncing
Maintain normal breathing throughout each stretch
Focus attention on the muscle being stretched; try to limit movement in other body parts
Not sure where to start?
Click here for lower body stretching video