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Should you really stretch

Short answer is YES!! You should definitely stretch before, during and after a workout. Heck, do some stretch exercises during the rest of the day, too. Stretching increases flexibility. Stretching reduces tension. Stretching helps in injury prevention, alleviates your tight joints, and helps you get more out of your exercise regime. So yes, stretch!

Studies suggest that your body will generate more muscle fibers during your exercises if you incorporate stretching into your daily regime. Stretching also helps to relieve sore muscles and tendons at a quicker pace to avoid the morning-after aches and stiffness.

Stretching exercises are divided into four different categories. The categories are ballistic, static, dynamic and isometric stretching.

Ballistic stretching exercises are done in a bouncing motion. Ballistic stretches forces an extended range of motion upon the limbs before the muscle can relax. By doing so, the ballistic stretching will tear the tissue and force it to regenerate stronger than before. Ballistic stretching leads to better flexibility in a shorter time period but is not suggested for everybody. A warm up before using ballistic stretches is recommended as the quick and jerky movements puts the body at risk of injury.

For the majority of us, static stretches will be our cup of coffee. It allows us to increase the flexibility of our joints by using a slower, but safer, rate of movement compared to the ballistic stretching exercises. Static stretching gradually lengthens a muscle into an elongated position in which you are required to hold for a duration of ten to thirty seconds. This holding period allows the muscles to relax in that state of tension and therefore perform better when future instances arise.

Dynamic stretching are used to develop neuro-muscular coordination which is believed to increase strength as well as speed. Dynamic stretching pushes the limbs to their full range of motion using slow and controlled movements. This form of stretching is best before a hard workout or recreational sports.

Isometric stretching extends muscle length and flexibility by alternating between stretching and contracting exercises. During an isometric stretching exercise the targetted muscle(s) are stretched to the point where it can go no further. This position is than held for a period of time similiar to static stretches. However, this position is held until the muscle is relaxed and then it is immediately stretched further. Because the muscle was able to relax, it is able to stretch a bit further each time. Isometric stretching is suggested to be typically more effective as well as comfortable than the other stretching methods.

The great thing about performing stretches on a consistent basis is that the results are felt quickly. Typically, you will see a greater range of motion in your joints within days. Posture is also improved as your muscles and joints are relieved of tension throughout the day.

There are, however, some simple guidelines to follow before, during and after you stretch:

If you feel any severe pain at any time, stop immediately.

Increase blood flow throughout the body before stretching by doing a light warm up like running or cycling for a few minutes.

Unless using the ballistic stretching method, avoid 'bouncing' movements.

Try to wait until you feel the muscle relax before releasing a hold.

Begin by using mobility exercises of all the joints.

When stretching after an exercise, slowly bring your heart rate dowm to avoid dizzenes.

Never hold your breathe when stretching. Regulated breathing is considered helpful to improve the stretch as well as avoid injury.

Don't miss John Dee's article on The Food Pyramid

About the Author: John Dee also writes articles in other subjects such as Fishing, General Health and Web Designing

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