Why do stretching exercises?
Stretching exercises do not only help to maintain the flexibility of the muscles but they also help to relax the muscles as much as possible. Only when the muscle experiences the entire spectrum of stretching and contracting can maximal performance be achieved.
The Effects of Stretching Exercises
Carefully regulated stretching at the end of an exercise programme is important for:
- the regeneration of the muscles
- reducing muscle tension
- increasing flexibility
- the prevention of injuries such as pulled muscles
- Always warm-up before stretching. It is best to stretch after exercising.
- When stretching, hold your position for at least 15 seconds. Ideal is 30 seconds.
- Do not jerk when stretching
- Start the stretch exercises very slowly. Stretch until you feel a slight tension. Stretching should not be painful.
- Breathe slowly, deeply and constantly when stretching.
Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition [Deluxe Edition], Bob Anderson
What to pay attention to when stretching!
The muscles are protected by the stretch reflex. If the muscles are stretched too much (e.g. when swinging = dynamic stretching) a nerve reflex sends a signal to the muscles to contract. This protects the muscles from damages. This means that if you stretch too far, you will end up hardening the muscle which you are trying to stretch. Holding a stretch to the limits of your range of motion or swinging the muscles overstrains them and activates the stretch reflex. This causes pain as well as physical damage in the form of small, microscopic tears of the muscle fibres. These tears will eventually result in scarring of the muscle fibres and consequently cause a loss in elasticity. For this reason it is important not to use force when stretching. If you stretch too much you will not fulfil the purpose of stretching. The most important thing about stretching is how often you do it. Stretching at regular intervals is the only way to get the desired results.
Stretching as a Warm-up
Instead of static stretching, experts recommend simulating the likely motions of the discipline concerned and gradually increasing the exercise load in the process.
Stretching Scientifically: A Guide to Flexibility Training (4th Revision ed)