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Stretching Your Limits

Today, nearly everyone is plagued by postural imbalances as the result of sedentary lifestyles, advancements in technology, and repetitive movements. There is an association between altered range of motion, muscle tightness, and lack of flexibility with increased risk of injury. Without adequate levels of flexibility and joint motion, you may not be able to achieve your personal fitness goals.

Neuromuscular efficiency is the ability of the nervous system to recruit the correct muscles to produce force, reduce force, and dynamically stabilize the body’s structures in all planes of motion. This cannot be achieved without proper flexibility.

Muscle imbalances lead to poor posture which leads to improper movement patterns which leads to injury. Our bodies are meant to move and they will do so by seeking the path of least resistance, which may or may not be the correct movement pattern. So, taking that 5-10 minutes to stretch before and after your workouts doesn’t sound so bad anymore, does it?

Types of Stretching:

Self-Myofascial Release (SMR).

This sort of stretching involves using a foam roller. It’s used to correct existing muscle imbalances, reduce knots within muscles, and inhibit overactive musculature. SMR uses the principle of autogenic inhibition to cause muscle relaxation. By applying force to the knot, the muscle fibers are altered from their bundled position. The key is to position the tight muscle on the foam roller and hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. This is not a pleasant feeling; it oftentimes is painful, but will payoff in the long-run. SMR can be used before exercise as well as after exercise.

Static Stretching.

This is what most people think of when they hear the word “stretching”. Static stretching is the process of passively taking a muscle to the point of tension and holding the stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. It’s used to correct existing muscle imbalances and lengthen tight musculature. This can be performed before and after exercise.

Active-Isolated Stretching (AIS).

This is the process of dynamically taking a joint, and all of its corresponding muscles, through its range of motion. It’s used to increase the extensibility of soft tissues through reciprocal inhibition. Active-isolated stretches should be used as a pre-activity warm-up. This is not a corrective form of stretching though, so if you have muscle imbalances, active-isolated stretching should be performed after SMR and static stretching. AIS involves holding each stretch for just 1-2 seconds and completing up to 10 repetitions 1-2 times.

Dynamic Stretching.

This uses the force production of a muscle and the body’s momentum to take a joint through the full available range of motion. It’s used to increase flexibility with optimal neuromuscular control, but should not be done until you’ve demonstrated that you have adequate control over all motions. Like AIS, this is not a corrective form of stretching, so if you have muscle imbalances, dynamic stretching should be performed after SMR and static stretching. Dynamic stretching is generally performed by doing 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions of 3-10 exercises.

It’s so easy to make excuses as to why you don’t have time to stretch. Starting this week, make a habit out of it. Begin and end each workout with 5-10 minutes of stretching. Ten minutes is such a small part of your day, but it can make a huge impact on you being healthy and reaching your fitness goals.


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