Why should we stretch? The easy answer is that we should stretch to prevent injury. Staying limber throughout the day will help avoid pulling your back out lifting a box or destroying your shoulder while pressing something overhead. Am I writing this because I feel like a dinosaur that just had a newborn on Christmas? Yes, but I digress. Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle’s felt elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion. Not only is stretching important for flexibility, it is critical for increasing muscle.
Stretch to Increase Muscle
Did you know that stretching plays a critical role in increasing muscle? When you think about gaining muscle, stretching is probably not the first thing that pops into your head. I will explain why fascia helps muscle growth to happen.
Every muscle in your body is enclosed in a bag of tough connective tissue known as fascia – a thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle and also organs. Fascia is important for holding your muscles in their proper place in your body. But your fascia may also be holding back your muscle growth. Think for a moment about your muscles. You train them and feed them properly. They want to grow and will grow, but something is holding them back. They have no room for 2021 gains in a tight, unstretched fascia.
Because fascia is so tough, it doesn’t allow the muscle room to expand. If I were to hand you a large pillow and ask you to stuff it into a very small pillowcase, it would be rather hard. Kind of what I think about fascia. If you stuffed the large pillow into the small case, the only way for the (almost blown out) small pillowcase to grow would be to stretch it. The lower leg is riddled with fascia because of its tremendous weight-bearing duties in the body. It is because of this fascia that many trainers have great difficulty developing their calves. The size of the muscle won’t change regardless of how hard you train or how well you eat because the connective tissue around your muscles is constricting the muscles within.
The solution is simple. Stretch!
Stretching lengthens muscle tissue and increases flexibility, both of which allow you to perform strength-building moves with greater range of movement, making the exercise more effective. When you are building muscle, you are creating tiny tears in the muscles and lactic acid builds up. Stretching properly can notably improve your muscle growth.
Gain Strength and Endurance
A stretching study done by Arnold Nelson, an associate professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana found that stretching can provide gains in strength, endurance and jumping. The study involved 38 mostly sedentary people who were divided in two groups. One group did not do any stretching exercises during a 10-week period while the other group engaged in a program that required stretching the legs for 40 minutes a few times a week. The series of 15 static stretches in the program were aimed at working all major muscles in the legs, including the hamstrings and quadriceps. Several of the stretches, for instance, required sitting on the floor with the legs out and then lowering the chest toward the legs. Participants held each stretch for 15 seconds and then repeated it three times. Neither group of people participated in any other kind of regular exercise routine.
In addition, the stretching group saw more modest gains in other areas. Their vertical jump distance increased 7 percent and their standing long jump distance increased 2 percent. Those in the control group saw no improvements in any of these areas, results showed.
Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
There are many controversial articles on dynamic stretching versus static stretching, and which is better. I do both, depending. I might hold my toes to my butt to stretch my quad but then again I also air squat to warm up before squats. There is an example of dynamic and static stretches that I perform together when I stretch. As long as you stretch, prevent injury and encourage muscle growth, it’s of no importance to me what type of stretching you do.
Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that prepare your muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues for performance and safety. Static stretches are those in which you stand, sit or lie still and hold a single position for a period of time, up to about 45 seconds.
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way resulting in pain, pulls, sprains and discomfort. Life lessons I go through result in articles to help others along their fitness journey in life. Help others.