The majority of us spend a large chunk of our day in a seated position. Think about it, you sleep for 7-8 hours and most of that may be in the foetal position, you get up maybe drive to work...in a seated position and then get behind a desk, when you get home you sit in front of the TV to unwind. Added to this if you do take some time out for exercise, can you honestly say that you finish your session with a good stretching routine? Just think of your poor bunched up muscles crying out for a BIG stretch!
I realise that I've just made a big generalisation but it hopefully helps you to understand where I'm coming from. There are many forms of stretching and much opinion of when it's better to stretch, before exercise, during, after or none at all! Some people think that we should stretch whether we exercise or not and others don't. So it can be confusing.
To keep it simple this advice is aimed at those who want to carry out a static stretching routine on its own and not before or after an exercise session. I don't intend to add any new theories to this debate but what I do want to do is to keep it clear and and concise, so read on!
Benefits of Stretching:
* Can improve your flexibility.
* Helps you to relax.
* Reduces the risk of joint sprain or muscle strain.
* Can reduce the risk of back problems.
* Can reduce post exercise muscle soreness.
* Can reduce tension in the muscle.
Warming Up. Before starting your stretch routine I would recommend that you 'warm up' your muscles prior to doing so. Stretching is often mistakenly thought of as a sufficient way of warming up your muscles but its important realise that a gentle warm up prior to stretching is a safer option as your warm up routine will increase blood flow to your muscles and therefore reduce the chance of injury prior to stretching.
A gentle warm up should consist of light rotation of the joints such as the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles followed by gentle to brisk walking or walking/jogging on the spot. This should last approximately 5 minutes or so until you feel warm and slightly out of breath.
Types of Stretches. Stretches can be split into 5 different techniques: Static, Ballistic, Passive, Ballistic/Dynamic and Proprioceptive. If you are a beginner I would recommend the simplest and easiest technique to ease you gently into it which is the Static stretch where you stretch the muscle to a point where you feel the tension and holding the stretch for approximately 15-20 seconds.
Static stretching can improve your flexibility over time and is one of the safest forms of stretching. Good luck with your journey to improved flexibility!