Stretching & Strengthening Intro
Stretching as a warm-up to physical work or exercise has long been believed to reduce the risk of injury. Recently some researchers have noted that stretching can actually be detrimental if it causes your body to “think” that a muscle is being stretched too far. In this situation, the body responds by contracting the muscle – the exact opposite of what you want. Following these general guidelines helps maximize the benefits of stretching and minimize any potential risks:
- Prior to stretching, do something to increase your heart rate and get your blood flowing to your muscles – e.g., running in place for a short time or walking rapidly.
- Perform balanced stretching. This means you should always stretch the muscles on both sides of your body evenly. Don’t stretch one side more than the other side.
- Avoid over-stretching. Never stretch to the point of pain or discomfort. You should feel only slight tension or a pull on the muscle at the peak of the stretch.
- Go slow! Always stretch slowly and evenly. Hold the stretch for about fifteen seconds and release slowly as well.
- Never bounce or jerk while stretching. This can cause injury as a muscle is pushed beyond its ability. All stretches should be smooth and slow.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Flexibility exercises should be relaxing. Deep, easy, even breathing is key to relaxation. Never hold your breath while you stretch.
Strengthening exercises are designed to strengthen core muscles in a way that makes many tasks easier.
Please note that if you have an injury, disability or chronic pain, it is important to consult a health care professional prior to attempting any specific stretches or strengthening exercises.