Stretching properly – that’s how it works

Stretching exercises keep muscles supple and prevent sore muscles and injuries. Regular physical activity with stretching is significant to a health lifestyle.

The spirit of the times is changing sporting habits

Swing gymnastics used to be called stretching exercises. For example, the upper body was tilted downwards with the knees stretched out until the fingers reached the floor. Wrong, it was said in the 80’s rocking causes muscle strains.

Instead, stretching was propagated: Stretching refers to stretching and bending individual body parts to the pain threshold. In doing so, one remains in the extreme position for seconds in order to improve the mobility of the joints. Soon this “passive stretching” was also considered indispensable after sport. Since the 1990s, it has been possible to rebound a little during the exercises: “Dynamic stretching” is now the name of the game.

But an Australian study from 2002 unsettled eager fitness fans: stretching exercises should neither prevent sore muscles nor injuries, was the message. Sports scientists criticize these statements because the data of the study are not representative.

They agree stretching improves joint mobility if you do it right. But remember exercises cannot prevent soreness of the muscles – they even worsen it if carried out improperly.

Warming up or stretching?

In principle, it makes sense to warm up before any sporting activity. It stimulates the circulation and prepares the mind as well as muscles and joints for the effort. This reduces the risk of injury. Therefore, you should start a recreational sport such as jogging or cycling calmly in the first few minutes. Only gradually increase your speed. However, special stretching exercises are not necessary beforehand.

Stress sports such as tennis, badminton, football or jazz dance, on the other hand, require a lot of mobility. Warming up the muscles is very important here. Professionals warm up. Jumping and short “dynamic” stretching then activate the muscles. The muscles that are important for the sport are stretched only briefly before the sport until there is a pull, and the stretch is only held for a few seconds. Who has a well developed body feeling, can rebound with small micro movements.

“Cool down” after the sport

Relaxed “running out” with small loosening exercises gradually returns the body to the normal operating mode (cool down) when jogging. Only after running are the thigh and calf muscles stretched, as well as the chest and neck muscles. The muscles have contracted and shortened as a result of the athletic strain.

Stretching ensures balance and good blood circulation. The “waste products” of the metabolism heated up by the training are better transported away. Thus the body can regenerate itself better, and the musculature relaxes. As a general rule, the more strenuous the sport, the gentler it should be to stretch afterwards: no more than ten seconds in the individual positions.

During the training, fine fiber cracks have appeared in the musculature, which increase through extreme stretching and cause sore muscles. If you have sore muscles, you should therefore refrain from stretching. After extreme efforts such as a marathon run, the exhausted body also needs rest. Stretching is done later.

You should take this into account when stretching

Stretch muscles only until you feel a slight pull. The elasticity improves automatically over time. Do not exceed the pain threshold: On some days the mobility is better than on others. Do not approach it with false ambition.
Stay in the passive stretching position for 10 to 30 seconds. Before training, stretch only briefly and rebound slightly. Do not hold your breath during the exercises. Continue to breathe calmly and regularly. Always stretch both sides of the body and start on the right. The correct selection of stretching exercises takes into account muscle groups that are particularly strained: e.g. the legs when jogging. Chest, shoulder girdle and back muscles are also always prone to tension and are grateful for stretching.

Stretching keeps you young

Stretching is more than just an accompanying program to sport. The fact that it improves the physical elasticity remarkably as a solo program is proven, for example, by the thousands of years old yoga exercises. They consist to a large extent of ingenious stretching exercises with excellent health effects. Physical fitness is more than the ability to walk five kilometers at a time.

The improvement in mobility is reflected in youthful, elastic movements and greater physical resilience.

 

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