We all love to do exercise and keep ourselves fit and you can say, to stay in form. So, we always search for new exercise moves and try doing it and cardio and on and on and on. But often we forget the Stretching part. Rather, you can say we actually skip that part, may be due to time cause or due to tiredness.
But stretching is the most vital part in the whole routine of our fitness.
What is this stretch?
This is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched. This improves the muscle elasticity and gives you a nice and toned body. Stretching is also used therapeutically to alleviate cramps.
Increasing flexibility through stretching is one of the basic goal of physical fitness. It is common for athletes to stretch after exercise in an attempt to reduce risk of injury and increase performance.
Let’s study the science behind this word- “Stretch”
Exactly what happens when we Stretch
The stretching of a muscle fiber begins with the sarcomere, the basic unit of contraction in the muscle fiber. As the sarcomere contracts, the area of overlap between the thick and thin myofilaments (filaments constructed from protein) increases. As it stretches, this area of overlap decreases, allowing the muscle fiber to elongate. Once the muscle fiber is at its maximum resting length (all the sarcomeres are fully stretched), additional stretching force on the surrounding connective tissue. The tension increases, now the fibers in the connective tissue align themselves along the same line of force as the tension. Hence, when we stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length sarcomere by sarcomere, then the connective tissue takes up the remaining slack. This helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.
When a muscle is stretched, some of its fibers lengthen, but other fibers may remain at rest. The current length of the entire muscle depends upon the number of stretched fibers.The more fibers that are stretched, the greater the length developed by the stretched muscle
When the muscle is stretched, so is the muscle spindle. The muscle spindle records the change in length (and how fast) and sends signals to the spine which convey this information to the brain. This triggers the stretch reflex which in return attempts to resist the change in muscle length by causing the stretched muscle to contract. The more sudden the change in muscle length,the stronger the muscle contractions will be. This basic function of the muscle spindle helps to maintain muscle tone and to protect the body from injury.
The stretch reflex has both a dynamic component and a static component. The static component of the stretch reflex persists as long as the muscle is being stretched. The dynamic component of the stretch reflex (which can be very powerful) lasts for only a moment and is in response to the initial sudden increase in muscle length. The reason that the stretch reflex has two components is because there are actually two kinds of muscle fibers: nuclear chain fibers, responsible for the static component and nuclear bag fibers, responsible for the dynamic component.
Different Types of Stretch
There are five different types of stretching: ballistic, dynamic, SMF stretching, PNF stretching, and static stretching.
Ballistic stretching is a rapid bouncing stretch in which a body part is moving with momentum that stretches the muscles to a maximum. Muscles respond to this type of stretching by contracting to protect itself from over extending.
This is a walking or movement stretch. By performing slow controlled movements through full range of motion, a person reduces risk of injury.
Self Myofacial Release Stretching
This is an alternative medicine therapy that claims to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching
This is a type of stretch for a particular muscle and its specific job, so resistance should be applied, then the muscle should be relaxed.
This is a type of stretch whereby a person stretches the muscle until a gentle tension is felt and then holds the stretch for thirty seconds or until a muscle release is felt, without any movement or bouncing.
Few Facts on Stretching
- Stretch before bed helps you to get a sound sleep – Stretching can be relaxing and is a great way to release tension. If you are relaxed and releasing stress and tight muscles, it seems like before bed is a great time.This helps to give you a sound sleep.
- Stretch after full workout – It’s definitely better to stretch after your workout. Some studies have come out that have shown that stretching before cardiovascular workout really doesn’t do much to prevent injuries. In fact, it may actually predispose you to more injuries- the thought being that stretching a cold, tight muscle could induce some small tears within that structure and perhaps lead to problems when you get active. So, stretching afterwards has the advantage of the muscles being warm, loose, more blood flow is occurring,so helps to get more benefit out of that stretch after activity.
- SMF Stretching as a treatment is not recommended–
Never bounce while stretching- Bouncing while performing stretches is one of the easiest ways to injure yourself.
- Stretch on both side to keep everything balanced – Balance is a critical thing in stretching. Keep in mind to stretch boh side while stretching.
- Stretching decrease the risk of injuries– Stretching increase the body flexibility, this helps in decreasing the chance of injuries.
- Stretching throughout the day is a good idea– Most of us sit down for a good part of the day, which wreaks havoc on your posture and can decrease your life expectancy by two years (based on research). Stretching for short periods throughout the day helps loosen up tight muscles and prevent injuries.
So stretch when you feel you need to, surely stretch after your whole workout, stretch in a day….And don’t place a Warning to your body without doing it.
Love your body and do good to it and it will give you the best.