Why You Should Stretch Regularly
With any workout program, your muscles could be overworked and eventually become more tense/stiff which will lead to improper posture, or even worse, injuries.
Now with technology taking over, people are hunched over their computer desk with improper posture and that puts stress on the incorrect muscles/joints. Stretching not only is a stress reliever, but there are countless benefits that can be obtained from it. This is why doctors recommend taking frequent breaks from sitting to stretch your body.
If you cannot stretch, you would be better off getting a massage. There are many good massage chairs that you can buy to use in your home or office.
Dangers of Overworking the Muscles
When a muscle is overworked due to heavy lifting and/or improper form, they usually become more tense, and tight. This will lead to over-usage and that particular muscle will be over-active in your daily life.
To prevent this, you must strengthen your antagonist muscle (opposing) and stretch the agonist muscle (a muscle that causes specific movement). A really good example of this would be an over-active chest muscle (pectoralis major) with a weak and over-stretched back muscle (rhomboids major) – this is usually seen in people over-working their chest muscles (excessive bench press, flies, etc.) and neglecting their antagonist muscle (rhomboids).
Now that you know how a muscle becomes tight and over-active, it’s time to learn how to prevent and stretch that particular muscle.
How to Prevent Overworking the Muscles
Stretching a muscle is fairly simple – all you need to do is lengthen it. However, temperature plays a huge roll on a muscle’s elasticity. A muscle can only be lengthened only so far, but to increase its flexibility, you must have to achieve an appropriate range of motion.
For example, the hamstrings are usually tight in most people. If you can only lift one leg up while laying down to 30 degrees (assuming your knee is fairly straight), then don’t push your limits and attempt a higher range of motion. Lengthening a muscle takes time and a lot of patience.
To stretch any particular muscle, you first need to know its function, and how it relates towards the body. We’ll take the abdominal muscles for example. The abdominals flex the torso (brings your shoulder towards your knees). In order to stretch the abdominals, we need to do the complete opposite function (which is an extension) to properly lengthen and stretch the abdominal muscles.
So, if you know the function of the muscle, then stretching will be a breeze for you!
The Role of Temperature in Stretching
Temperature also plays a big role in stretching. A muscle will react more efficiently (stretching wise) when you are warm as oppose to when you are cold or cool (one of the major reasons why we warm-up).
With that said, you should be stretching after a workout when the muscles are still saturated with blood. This will enable you to have a more efficient and effective stretch.
It is recommended that you stretch after and not before a workout. This is because stretching a cold muscle could increase your chances of injury due to the loss of elasticity of the muscle.
There are many opinions on when is the best time to stretch during a workout, and you may hear it’s best to do it before a workout. However, you have to decide for yourself with the information that we have provided. Generally, it’s best to stretch after a workout because you’ll have more range of motion, with more elasticity from the blood and temperature.
Stretching and Posture Correction
Stretching has also been found to help with posture correction. If you spend most of your time seated in front of a computer, you should regularly stretch to improve your posture. Stretching helps to improve the flow of blood down your spine and legs and can prevent serious conditions such as lower back pain, plantar fasciitis, and others.
You do not have to do any exercises to stretch. You simply need to break from the daily routine of sitting down. Therefore, make sure you stand and walk for a few meters at least once every hour. Doing so will stretch the muscles on your legs and back and help to improve your posture.