Do You Stretch?!!
Increasing one’s flexibility is not usually a focus for people looking to improve their fitness levels but the importance of stretching should not be underestimated. The thought of ‘stretching’ can be a daunting idea especially for the absolute beginner for example where does one start, what does one do and for how long are often the questions milling around our heads.
As we become more passionate about Pole, we start to become much more body-aware and begin to set ourselves new goals in terms of strength and flexibility. We want to be flexible so we can achieve advanced pole moves and positions, and even professional dancers who are already flexible continue to ‘stretch’ their limits further.
Regular stretching is known to bring positive benefits in the muscles and joints. Increasing flexibility can also improve quality of life; it aids with injury prevention, helps to minimize muscle soreness, releases bound up muscles that may be affecting your posture and improves efficiency in all physical activities. Good flexibility promotes elasticity of the muscles and provides a wider range of motion (ROM) in the joints. Not to mention that blissful feeling of a relaxed body post stretch session!
In a regular 1 hour exercise session, the total stretching time normally lasts for about 5 minutes. This is usually because it is part of a warm up routine designed to prepare the body for the activity that follows. The intention is to increase your heart, raise your core body temperature and lubricate your joints for easier mobility.
Stretching to warm up our body for action and stretching to specifically increase our general flexibility are two very different things. To increase flexibility takes time and care, and cannot be achieved from 5 minutes of stretching during a class warm-up.
DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE DIFFERENT STRETCHING TECHNIQUES?
The four major types of stretches are:
1. Static Stretching: The Static stretch is used most often; this involves stretching a particular muscle or group of muscles by slowly moving the body into position and then holding the stretch for a set amount of time.
2. PNF: Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a more advanced form of flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted. PNF stretching was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation, and to that effect is very effective. It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups, and as well as increasing flexibility it also improves muscular strength.
3. Dynamic Stretching: Dynamic stretching means a stretch is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly, usually 10 to 12 times. Dynamic stretching requires more thoughtful coordination than static stretching because of the movement involved. Dynamic stretching is controlled, smooth, and deliberate and should not be confused with old-fashioned Ballistic stretching.
4. Active Stretching: Active stretching means you’re lengthening a muscle by actively contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you’re stretching. This method requires you to relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the opposing muscle to initiate the stretch. Active stretching can be challenging because of the muscular force required to generate the stretch but is generally considered lower risk because you are controlling the stretch force with your own strength rather than an external force.
HOW OFTEN, HOW LONG AND WHEN SHOULD I NOTICE A DIFFERENCE?
Consistency is key here! You should incorporate only two to four heavier stretching sessions in each week and have a lighter stretching day in between each of the heavier days.
Studies have found that range of motion can be increased by a single 15-30 seconds stretch for each muscle group per day.
Physical changes will become noticeable between four to eight weeks. The long-term effects of stretching towards increased range of motion show that after 6 weeks, people who stretched for 30 seconds per muscle each day increased their range of motion much more than those who stretched for 15 seconds per day.
SOME USEFUL TIPS TO CONSIDER WHEN STRETCHING
Never hold your breath! This will only tense your muscles and inadvertently counteract what you are trying to achieve. Take deep, steady inhales and exhales.
If you can’t feel the stretch then there’s a good chance you may not be in the ideal alignment. A slight adjustment and boom you’ve found the sweet spot!
It’s so easy to tense up, particularly when you’re trying to avoid pain but you need to relax to get the most out of your stretch session.
Steady and gradual does it
Respect your body! Focus on the benefits of stretching rather than taking a no pain, no gain approach. This will make your practice more enjoyable and almost meditative. Know your limits, be mindful of pre-existing injuries and ask Jen to help you if you’re unsure of anything. With passion, commitment and safe practice, you’ll increase your flexibility in no time and you’ll push your pole skills to the next level, which is, after all, what we’re all aiming for!!
A guided stretch class might be just what you need to kick start your stretching routine. At Studio Verve® we offer a 1-hour Stretch & Flex class that draws on all four stretching techniques mentioned above. We also incorporate principles used in Yoga and Pilates to give you a well-rounded stretch program that will help you achieve your flexibility goals. Check the timetable to see when classes are running.
NEXT SCHEDULED STRETCH & FLEX COURSE RUNS FOR 4 WEEKS AND WILL COMMENCE SUNDAY 6 APRIL, 3.15PM