The way you exercise is wrong. Or more to the point, the way you stretch is wrong. In fact, the very way you think about stretching is wrong. If you’re serious about enjoying exercise, getting fit at the best gyms and practising competitive sport, very simply, you have to change what you do before and after you do it.
Failure to do so could cause you injury. Get these stretching basics right, however, and you’ll be doing your general physical health the world of good before (and long after) you’ve even got started!
Stretching is important because if we jump straight into the action – whether it’s swimming, playing football or going for a jog in the park, it’s much more likely that you’ll strain a muscle is some way. By not taking the time to stretch your muscles, ligaments and tendons properly, you increase the risk of injury. So, that’s why we stretch.
There’s a counterargument?
Yes. Turns out that stretching is now under examination. You might say, stretching is being pulled apart. Or, stretching has been knocked out of joint. Or, stretching is bad for you? Pull the other one. The point here (there is a point) is that when you static stretch, you intentionally put a lot of strain on the muscle, which can in fact end up weakening it, making you more likely to injure yourself.
But that’s not all, there are even more damning claims made against the case for stretching. What you think you might be gaining in flexibility, you are actually losing in strength. So say goodbye to your excellence in track and field and hello to smaller shopping bags, with perhaps an extra trolley to wheel them back home in.
The alternative: dynamic stretching
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Rather than all that pulling about that static stretching demands, instead, warm up by gently putting into practice the very movements that you’ll soon be making as part of your sport or exercise. In this way, you’ll allow your body to build up to what it is about to undergo, ever-so gently increasing the intensity until finally you are ready to get properly started.
Aside from being a more sport-specific warm-up, dynamic stretching is also better at getting you ready from a cardio point of view. Whereas with static stretches, your heart remains essentially at rest, dynamic stretching gets you active with your heart pumping and lungs filled with air – much better than leaning against a post while you lift your knees up to your chest.
Typical examples of dynamic stretching include jogging and sprints, high kicks and dynamic calf stretches. Each of these simple routines help to incrementally increase your circulation as you warm up the various muscle regions of your body in a natural and safe way.
So, the next time you’re about to start a game of football and spot that some of the other lads are lying down in the dirt, grimacing in the bitter wind as they attempt to statically, misguidedly, stretch out their poor, twanging hamstrings, smugly laugh to yourself, safe in the knowledge that your dynamic body acclimatisation is far better suited to the task of readying you for the gruelling kickabout ahead.