Stretching Essentials

Stretching is essential in keeping your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy.  Without it, your muscles shorten and become tight, making them more prone to injury.  

Use these tips to enjure safe stretching:

  • Warm up first.  Before stretching, try doing a brief warmup, such as jogging in place or brisk walking.  This allows your heart rate and blood flow to increase and raises the temperature of muscles, ligaments and tendons.  Stretching cold muscles may harm them and can lead to changes in blood pressure. 
  • Do it regularly.  Stretch at least three times a week to maintain flexibility.  Each session should last no less than 10 minutes, with each static stretch held for 10 seconds.  In time, work up to holding your stretches for 20-30 seconds.  Repeat each stretch about four times. 
  • Don't bounce.  Stretch in a smooth movement, refraining from bouncing.  Bouncing can injure your muscles and can contribute to muscle tightness. 
  • Focus on major muscle groups.  Concentrate on areas such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders.  Stretch both sides.  
  • Finish workouts with a stretch.  Give yourself time after a workout to stretch, keeping your muscles from tightening up quickly.  Although it may not prevent delayed on-set muscle soreness, it does promote flexibility and makes you feel good.