Stretching and Muscle Fitness Training
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Stretching should be part of any exercise routine. Stretching is especially helpful for building strength, improving flexibility and decreasing injury risks.
Static stretching entails lengthening a muscle to its furthest point and holding that stretch for 30 seconds or more, often done prior to exercising or as part of cool-down stretching routine. This method may help relieve soreness or improve performance after physical exertion.
The Benefits of Strong Muscles
Strength training should be part of any fitness routine, whether or not your goal is bodybuilding. Strengthening activities help make daily tasks such as opening pickle jars easier while strengthening muscles helps with movement, play and work performance.
Furthermore, strong muscles protect you against injury as you age while decreasing the risk of bone loss due to age.
Though many associate muscle strength with lifting heavy loads, muscular strength actually encompasses multiple components.
For instance, how many pushups you can complete within one minute depends not only on muscular strength but also power and endurance.
To build stronger muscles, begin with a warm-up activity like walking or jogging before performing two to three sets of exercises for each muscle group two to three times every week with at least 48 hours rest in between workouts
By using weight or resistance levels heavy enough to tire the muscles out after 12-15 repetitions with good form before gradually increasing the weight.
Strength training can help lower the risk of injury while simultaneously improving balance, flexibility and coordination.
Although strong muscles make everyday movements and activities simpler, there are other less obvious benefits, including:
- Strength training helps strengthen bones with age, helping prevent osteoporosis and reducing fracture risks.
- Strength training burns more calories than other forms of exercise, making it easier to manage your weight by burning more than other forms.
- Strength training improves mental health: According to studies, strength training increases levels of endorphins that boost your mood.
- Increased energy: When you build more muscle, your metabolism speeds up, making it easier to achieve healthy weight management while managing blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that most adults engage in 150 minutes or more of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity a week, with strength training performed on two days out of every week with one rest day between.
Always seek professional advice from a gym instructor, personal trainer, exercise physiologist or physiotherapist in order to ensure you're exercising correctly and avoid injury.
Static stretching is when you hold a position without movement and it elongates specific muscle groups. It’s a popular form of exercise among anyone who goes to the gym, plays sports, or sits at a desk all day for work. This type of stretching can help prevent injury and improve posture and flexibility.
However, the research shows that it’s best to do static stretches post-workout, not before. Static stretching before a workout can actually decrease performance. Several studies have shown that when muscles are stretched before a workout, it increases the resistance of the muscle-tendon unit and decreases power output.
In contrast, dynamic stretching (moving through a range of motion with a controlled motion) has been proven to be beneficial. Dynamic stretching can actually increase power output and help your muscles perform better. This is why most strength and conditioning professionals encourage their athletes to use dynamic stretching instead of static stretches before a workout.
It’s also important to note that when a muscle is tight, it can affect the joint that it’s in. This is why a stiff or tight muscle can cause discomfort and pain. Static stretching can help loosen up these tight muscles to alleviate this discomfort. It’s just important to do the right kind of stretching in the right place and time.
Here's some benefits of stretching for muscles:
1. Increased Muscle Strength
Static stretching involves performing slow movements that stretch a muscle just enough so it feels stretched but without pain, before holding this position for 15-20 seconds. It is often practiced after workouts to relax muscles after exertion while it can also help avoid stiff joints during long sitting sessions at work or at home.
Static stretching promotes blood flow to muscles and helps the body warm up for physical activities, thus decreasing injury risks and increasing oxygen supply to muscles, thus helping reduce lactic acid buildup.
Static stretching daily can help increase both strength and power. As you become stronger, lifting heavier weights or sprinting faster becomes easier because your muscle fibers are better protected - an invaluable asset when pushing through workouts without inflicting irreparable harm to muscles.
To improve your strength, add static stretching exercises into your routine after each workout. They can either stand alone or form part of the cool down period.
Dynamic stretching is a form of movement performed before an exercise session to warm up the body and prepare it for its intended activity, such as moving your arms in circles before swimming or jogging before running.
Current research employed a crossover study design in order to avoid fatigue-induced distortion of results. This method of testing is considered highly valid as it involves identical test participants in both experimental conditions.
Researchers conducted an in-depth examination of the effects of static and dynamic stretching on isokinetic knee extension strength and hip abductor/adductor strength in tested subjects. They found both static and dynamic stretching increased knee extension strength; while only combined dynamic/static stretching significantly enhanced hip abductor/adductor leg strength.
To increase isokinetic leg abductor/adductor strength, combine dynamic and static stretching exercises. For instance, start by raising one leg while keeping your back straight before bending forward at the waist to reach for your toes. Maintain this position for 30 seconds on one leg before switching sides.
2. Increased Muscle Power
As a beginner to exercise or looking to step up your current training routine, stretching can often be overlooked. But by adding stretching into your routine regularly, stretching can help improve flexibility and muscle power while increasing joint range of motion; stretching can make everyday movements such as walking or running much simpler.
Static stretching is an exercise which involves holding one position for a short period without moving nor shifting. Static stretching should ideally be performed at the end of a workout when muscles are warm and pliable so as to maximize its benefits. Static stretching should never cause pain as this could lead to muscle strain or injury.
Static stretching may not appear effective. However, research shows otherwise. Studies reveal that it can actually increase both strength and muscle power through targeting fast-twitch fibers that contract muscles; stretching causes these fibers to fatigue which in turn decreases force output by these fast-twitch muscle fibers - though temporary this impact still makes an important difference for athletes' performances.
Static stretching not only improves muscle strength, but can also speed up movement and reaction times, particularly for lower body and arm muscles like the biceps, triceps and shoulders. This can be especially helpful for sprinters or basketball players whose sports require quick movements.
Static stretching can increase muscle power by helping prevent fatigue. By performing static stretches throughout your day, static stretching may help ward off muscle soreness caused by long, intensive workouts.
Many individuals may be tempted to forego stretching after exercising, but doing so could have serious repercussions for both their health and fitness goals. To obtain maximum benefit from stretching, utilize dynamic stretches during workouts as a warm up before switching over to static stretches as a cool down technique.
3. Increased Muscle Endurance
Static stretching can help increase muscle endurance by increasing blood flow and oxygenation to your muscles. This process flushes toxins out while providing essential nutrition needed for recovery after workouts, helping your muscles from becoming tight and sore after exerting themselves in their workouts, which in turn may reduce intensity for future exercises.
Static stretching requires pushing muscles to their limit without reaching pain threshold, and holding this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Your stretch time will depend on your level of flexibility so gradually increase both repetitions and duration as part of a building plan.
Breathing slowly and deeply is essential to successfully performing static stretches, as this will not only assist in getting into the correct position but will also assist your muscles with adapting by increasing slow-twitch fibers which are less prone to fatigue. Furthermore, breathing helps relax tension-filled muscles which makes them less rigid and more flexible.
Static stretching should only be used as part of a cool down after exercise, rather than being performed prior to starting exercise. Dynamic stretches, which involve moving your body through its full range of motion, are more suitable for warming up muscles before exercising.
Start with one muscle group when starting static stretches; for instance, when working out your legs, stand up straight and bend at the knees until your hands (or towels/straps if unable) touch your toes with ease. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds before repeating on another leg.
Stretch out your neck and shoulders by sitting up in a chair and lifting your head toward the sky with both arms behind your back, providing an effective shoulder and neck stretch to relieve tension build-up from sitting at a desk all day long. This stretch can bring instantaneous relief of neck tension.
4. Increased Flexibility
Static stretching before and after exercise can help relieve muscle tightness, making daily tasks more comfortable while also decreasing the risk of injury by helping you move through your range of motion more fluidly. According to strength and conditioning trainer Ben Bunting, static stretching may even be more effective at increasing flexibility post workout than dynamic stretches.
Tight muscles can cause immense discomfort, making even basic movements difficult to perform. Stretching regularly is one way to loosen these tightened muscles and enhance quality of life; additionally, expanding range of motion will increase effectiveness of other exercises.
Static stretching entails moving a muscle as far as it will go without feeling uncomfortable, then holding that position for 7-15 seconds. For optimal results and to prevent injury, static stretches should be conducted in a controlled environment such as after running or sports practice or during strength training sessions.
As your fitness goals change, so should the focus of your static stretching. Start with your muscles closest to the core before working your way outwards; for maximum mobility results combine dynamic and static stretching techniques for an overall body workout.
Many athletes use static stretching either as an alternative or supplement to strength training, but it's important to remember that strength and mobility don't need to be mutually exclusive. According to one recent study, performing both static and dynamic stretches was superior than doing either one alone.
To strengthen the quadriceps muscle, stand with feet hip-width apart and grab onto a wall or pole for support. While keeping shoulders back, bend at waist until feeling stretch on right side. Hold this position for 30 seconds then repeat on other side.
Static stretches can also help strengthen your hamstrings. Simply sit on the ground with one leg extended straight in front of you. Reach down with one hand, trying to touch all five toes (using towels or rope if necessary).
We've all seen rubber bands with their elastic properties stretched beyond their limit. Static stretching can do the same to your muscles and connective tissues, turning them into loose rubber bands. You need some stiffness in your muscles for high speed, explosive movements - it aids acceleration and power - but when stretched too far or held too long static stretching results in its stiffness eroding away and muscles weaken.
Static stretching entails moving a muscle as far as possible without experiencing pain, and holding this position for 20 to 45 seconds before relaxing it back down again. Static stretching can help increase flexibility and balance while decreasing stiffness in tight muscles that could otherwise lead to injuries.
Studies demonstrate that static stretching reduces the force a muscle can generate during contraction by decreasing activation. This reduced force may contribute to decreased performance during exercise sessions and an increased injury risk.
Dynamic stretching is an effective way of warming up before exercise, warming muscles by moving joints through their range of motion and helping your body get ready to exert force on them. Plus, dynamic stretching increases muscle length during this type of stretching routine which makes it ideal post-workout stretching as well.
Static stretching may be beneficial to those experiencing mobility issues, but for maximum benefits you should only perform these static stretches following physical activity or prior to working out. When stretching before exercise, try keeping each stretch to no more than 30 seconds per set and avoid stretching beyond any point of pain; that increases injury risk.