To Stretch or Not to Stretch that is the Question?!
Published on: 07/06/18
To Stretch or Not to Stretch, that is the Question?!
What is Stretching?
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 elasticity. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion.
As we age, our muscles become tighter and there will be less range of movement in the joints. This can make functional, everyday activities a challenge. Simple things like reaching for food on the top shelf of a cupboard or just sitting up tall into the correct alignment could potentially become difficult. Starting to incorporate stretching into your programme early on and making this a regular daily activity can have a profound effect on wellness and mobility. Other benefits include:
- Reduced muscle tension
- Enhanced muscular co-ordination
- Increased circulation
- Increased energy levels
- Improved posture
- Reduced stiffness and soreness
- Effective recovery following exercise
- Improved body awareness
- Reduced risk of injury
- Counteracts the repetitive movements of exercise
- Improved balance and overall fitness
The different types of stretching in Pilates:
Developmental stretching focuses on increasing the length or flexibility of a muscle, usually performed at the end of a Pilates class with focus on increasing the range of movement around a joint.
Static stretches are held for a period of time.
Passive stretching is a form of static stretching where the stretch is held and allows external force such as gravity or body weight to develop the stretch. In Pilates we tend to use the resistance bands; these are an excellent tool to help increase flexibility
Active stretching is where the one muscle contracts to encourage the lengthening of the opposite muscle i.e. when performing a standing quadriceps stretch, the hamstrings would contract (shorten) to get into the stretch position, lengthening the opposing muscle that is required to be stretched – the quadriceps.
Maintenance stretching - the main aim of is to return the muscle back to their pre-exercise length and is typically performed during the cool down of a Pilates class. These stretches should be held for approximately 10-15 seconds. A good range of maintenance and developmental stretches should be included in your Pilates class, focusing on all major muscle groups and muscle used during the class.
Dynamic stretching is classed as stretching through movement and is typically performed in the warm-up phase of a Pilates class. It’s aimed at increasing mobility and preparing the body for the main component of your lesson.
Safety & Precautions
- Stretching too much or past the point of discomfort especially when the muscle isn’t warmed up is not advisable as it can lead to injury. Listen to your body and ease off if you feel any pain during a stretch.
- Always ensure that your body is warmed up before performing any static stretches.
- To create an even balance, make sure you stretch body sides of the body.
- At the end of a Pilates class the stretches should focus on targeting the muscles that have been worked on or areas that are tight.
- Always perform the stretches in a slow and control way, ensuring that you maintain your alignment.
- Speak to your Pilates instructor about suitable stretches for you if you have an injury or are pregnant.
- And don’t forget to breathe!
What happens if you do NOT stretch?
Not stretching will increase tightness in the body, allowing muscles to pull on joints, causing major pain. Gil Hedley explains the importance of stretching in this 5min video click here.
It doesn't need to take a lot of time to stretch, so get on a mat and get rid of your fuzz.
Join us for the Stretch Therapy workshop on Sunday 8 July to learn techniques, gain understanding of how to perform a deeper stretch.