SOME FACTS ABOUT STRETCHING

Stretching helps in alot of ways for the better functioning of the muscles.The right arm show up should do two things: loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints, and literally warm up the body. When you’re at rest, there’s less blood flow to muscles and tendons, and they stiffen. “You need to make tissues and tendons compliant before beginning exercise,” Knudson says.

A well-designed warm-up starts by increasing body heat and blood flow. Warm muscles and dilated blood vessels pull oxygen from the bloodstream more efficiently and use stored muscle fuel more effectively. They also withstand loads better. One significant if gruesome study found that the leg-muscle tissue of laboratory rabbits
could be stretched farther before ripping if it had been electronically stimulated — that is, warmed up.

Warmup is a necessary thing for every individual before any heavy workout.

To raise the body’s temperature, a warm-up must begin with aerobic activity, usually light jogging. Most coaches and athletes have known this for years. That’s why tennis players run around the court four or five times before a match and marathoners stride in front of the starting line. But many athletes do this portion of their warm-up too intensely or too early. A 2002 study of collegiate volleyball players found that those who’d warmed up and then sat on the bench for 30 minutes had lower backs that were stiffer than they had been before the warm-up.

UNDERSTANDING STRETCHING:

Many peoples anatomic model for stretching is Gumby, which translates into their misinterpretation of the methods and techniques surrounding stretching. Flexibility and range of motion are critical components in the fitness equation, and every method and technique must be appropriate to what you are stretching and who is doing the stretching.

Each persons body defines its own range of motion, and there is no standard when dealing with a varied population.
When you stretch your muscle, it is actually the joint and ligaments being moved across these various contact surfaces. Normal range of motion is part of healthy joint movements, but it is very unhealthy for individuals to stretch past their limitations. Studies have shown that people who continuously perform intense stretches that exceed their physical limitation create uneven mechanical wear on the joints and ligaments, which lead to osteoarthritis.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF STRETCHING:

Static: Static stretching is often seen in the health clubs or at sporting events when athletes slowly stretch their muscles to the end point of movement and hold the stretch for a period of time, such as doing a split.

Ballistic: Ballistic stretching is a very controversial technique that uses bouncing and abrupt movements to gain momentum to create greater range of motion.

Active: In active stretch, the limbs and joints are stretched to a given point and held in position using an opposing muscle group. For example, to stretch your quadriceps you would bring your heel back to your buttock and hold it there using your hamstrings.

Passive: During the passive stretch, muscles are taken through their range of motion by an external force, such as a piece of equipment, your own hand or a partner.The disadvantage of passive stretching is understanding how far to go; too little accomplishes nothing and too much can cause injury.

Slow movement: Slow movements of a muscle, such as neck, arm and trunk rotations, are stretching techniques that are more appropriate for warming up to do another activity.

Dynamic: Dynamic flexibility involves controlled swinging of your limb with a gradual increase of the distance, speed and intensity, without going past a healthy range of motion, such as a split leap in dance.

RESEARCH ON STRETCHING:

Many studies have evaluated various effects of different types and durations of stretching. Outcomes of these studies can be categorized as either acute or training effects. Acute effects measure the immediate results of stretching, while training effects are the results of stretching over a period of time. Stretching studies also vary by the different muscles or muscle groups that are being examined and the variety of populations studied, thereby making interpretation and recommendations somewhat difficult and relative. Each of these factors must therefore be considered when making conclusions based on research studies. Several systematic reviews of stretching are available to provide general recommendations.

The effectiveness of stretching is usually reported as an increase in joint ROM (usually passive ROM); for example, knee or hip ROM is used to determine changes in hamstring length. Static stretching often results in increases in joint ROM. Interestingly, the increase in ROM may not be caused by increased length (decreased tension) of the muscle; rather, the subject may simply have an increased tolerance to stretching. Increases in muscle length are measured by “extensibility”, usually where a standardized load is placed on the limb and joint motion is measured.

INJURY AVOIDANCE?

A second, equally important question to ask of stretching is, “Does it help prevent injuries?” Again, flexibility fans can cite articles to back their position; again, however, these studies leave much to be desired.The stretching group missed less work due to injury, perhaps because of its improved flexibility; however, the researchers acknowledged that this result could also be attributed to “a Hawthorne effect, peer pressure, or beliefs held by injured persons in the experimental group that the flexibility intervention had protected them from serious, long-term injury.”

BENEFITS OF STRETCHING:

Many short- and long-term benefits occur as a result of regular flexibility training. Initially, stretching maintains and increases range of motion and increases blood supply to the soft muscle tissue. The changes can enhance sports performance and help prevent injury. Initiating regular flexibility training will also prevent the body from losing range of motion and allow the body to function better as a whole.

CONCLUSION:

The above discussion omits several caveats which should be kept in mind. First, the importance of flexibility (and thus stretching) varies considerably from sport to sport; what may suffice for distance runners may not be adequate for gymnasts, for instance. Second, all athletic endeavors require a certain range of motion around one’s joints, and athletes who can’t comfortably achieve this range can certainly benefit from flexibility training. Third, certain athletes with specific problems (such as muscle imbalances, chronic tightness, or recent injury) are likely to benefit from stretching even if others do not. And fourth, stretching may yield long-term health benefits which are not apparent in the short-term time scale (weeks to months) of most exercise-related research.

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