In this Boot Camp Blog I want to talk about flexibility. We will look at the benefits associated with carrying out effective stretches and different types of stretching routines, as well as understanding how our muscles work. With a better understanding I believe you will be able to incorporate and execute appropriate stretching routines more effectively. We will also look at pre exercise routine stretches and post exercise or developmental stretching routines.
So is stretching important or beneficial to health and performance?
Any research I have read that suggests stretching is detrimental to an athlete’s performance usually refers to it within the elite spectrum. For the purpose of this Boot Camp Blog I want to look at the majorities and those that may not currently have a normal or full range of movement throughout their joints.
My personal belief is that it is better to take your joints through the full range of movement, under control, during your warm-up. This means that when you begin your training session and take your joints through the same range of movement, but more dynamically, you joints have already done so safely. Please remember, it is important to warm your muscles up prior to stretching. Think of your muscles like blu-tac, if you stretch blu-tac when it is cold it will break, but if you warm it up first it will become more pliable. It is suggested you hold the pre boot camp exercise stretch for between 8 – 12 seconds.
There are three main benefits to good flexibility –
• A more flexible joint requires less energy to move through a greater range.
• It decreases the athlete’s overall risk of injury.
• It increases performance during exercise, as well as posture and ease of movement during normal daily routine.
OK now let’s look at the process a muscle fibre goes through during a developmental stretch. When you go into a stretch, as you reach your optimum range of movement, your muscle will contract and you will experience a biting sensation. This biting sensation is simply the body’s safety mechanism preventing you from damaging the muscle. Your muscle has not been through this range of movement for a while and therefore sends a signal to your brain that you should stop. At this point all you need to do is simply hold the stretch. After approximately 8-12 seconds the muscle will begin to relax the contraction as it realizes it is not going to tear, at which point you can increase the stretch several centimeters. You do this slowly until you feel the biting sensation again and simply repeat the process. It is suggested that you spend approximately 60 seconds on each muscle group and this is how you increase your flexibility.
If your flexibility is extremely lacking and requires drastic intervention you can speed up this process by carrying out Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching. To do this you follow the same method as described above for developmental stretching, however, when your muscle contracts and you experience the biting sensation, instead of just holding the stretch you actively work the muscle and push in the opposite direction you are stretching. This tricks the muscle into thinking it is in a working mode rather than a stretch. Once you relax the contraction and increase the stretch the increased range of movement is greater.
Many people struggle to dedicate enough time post boot camp style exercise to stretch out their muscles. If this is the case for you then it might be a good idea to attend a flexibility type class like Yoga, Pilates or Body Balance. Do not underestimate the benefits associated with good flexibility.
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Happy training and I hope one day to see you at one of our Reboot 5 Day UK fitness Boot Camps in Dorset. You can also receive a free 7-day training plan by joining our mailing list that can be found on our Fitness Boot Camp Website.