Stretching – why you need it just as much as a workout.

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 Stress, long hours at work and in cars, mean we need stretching more than ever.

By Personal Trainer Rachel Livingstone

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Stretching both before and after exercise is critical to long term flexibility and health.

If there was an exercise that reduced every day aches and pains, made your body feel lighter and freer and improved your performance in the sports you enjoy, would you do it?

The reality is whilst flexibility is one of the 3 fundamental facets of fitness – cardio, strength and flexibility, and is an essential part of every well designed exercise program, few people actually do it. Flexibility is the range of movement in our joints. It is determined by the ability of the soft tissues around the joint to stretch. This includes the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint capsules.

Stretching is about more than just lengthening muscles. It is about taking muscles through their full range of motion to keep the joint nourished and healthy. So don’t run out of time, think burning calories or grabbing a shower is more important. Make stretching a part of your exercise routine and keep your body moving better, every day, for life.

So don’t run out of time, think burning calories or grabbing a shower is more important

Most of us need stretching more than ever – the more time we spend in front of computers, TVs and in cars, the more we need it. Our movements and postures are too restricted so muscles tend to shorten. Even wearing high heels for long periods changes the position of the hips, spine and calves shortening all the muscles in the chain.

Even wearing high heels for long periods changes the position of the hips, spine and calves shortening all the muscles in the chain.

Stress and tension caused by busy, on-the-go lifestyles, further adds to our stiffness giving us sore muscles. Both mentally and physically we need to relax and let go. If we increase our flexibility we are less likely to get injured both in daily life and during sport. In fact, having a muscle that can comfortably stretch from A to C, not creak its way from A to B will greatly increase our exercise and sporting performance.

Both mentally and physically we need to relax and let go.

There are many different ways to stretch both before and after exercise. Performing a set of 15 squats with just your body weight before you add a barbell or dumbbells is an ‘active stretch’ that is preparing your body for the next more intense set.

Holding a triceps ‘static stretch’ for 15 seconds after a set of bench dips is helping to disperse lactic acid – and it is suggested a muscle that has just been stretched can contract more effectively.

Ending your workout with stretches held for one minute on hamstrings and glutes, whilst the muscles are nice and warm, not only re-lengthens the muscles after their shortening response to exercise, but improves your overall flexibility in those muscles.

Five ways to stay supple

  1. Take the muscles through a full range of movement on each exercise you do.
  2. At the end of every workout, spend 5 minutes stretching the muscles you have just worked.
  3. Add a Yoga or flexibility focused class to your weekly routine.
  4. Get up, walk around and stretch your arms up every 30 minutes if you spend long periods sitting down.
  5. Identify your tightness ‘hotspot’ and stretch this muscle daily.

Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub www.healthhub.net.au

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Rachel Livingstone

CONTRIBUTOR

Rachel is a PT and Maternal Health specialist who found the gym at 14 through her weight lifting dad and never looked back. Originally from the UK she finally settled her wanderlusting feet on the shores of Sydney and can often be found on the back of a paddleboard exploring Rose Bay and the beautiful harbour.

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