Benefits of stretching: There are a lot! Stretching even is more important than strength training and should be practised regularly. It improves the mobility, helps us to relax and strengthens our muscles to the same time.
Benefits of stretching – importance
Muscles that cannot benefit from a regular stretch up to their full length reduce their range of motion. Usually they will adapt to the range of their daily activity. This means our muscles shorten what causes our mobility to decrease. Without stretching this shortening already begins in our childhood and causes major immobilities of the back, hips, shoulders, etc. at higher ages.
Even athletes have problems in that area because strength and endurance training in most cases play a bigger roles in their fitness programs. In fact, regular stretches are very beneficial. Stretching does not just benefit to your mobility but also helps you to relax, reduce negative stress, and even strengthens your muscles.
Benefits of stretching vs. strength training
Within the strength training our muscles contract (shorten) and increase their tension (contraction tension). The origin and insertion of the muscle are approaching each other. Within the muscle stretching it is the exact opposite that happens. Muscle origin and insertion are moving further away from each other and the muscle is being pulled apart and extends. The extension also increases the tension for the muscle (stretch tension).
Almost all muscles (agonist) have an opponent (antagonist). An optimal training for the agonist has the benefit of stretching the antagonist as well. While the agonist is contracting its antagonist extends. In other words: strength training is stretch training to the same time. This method refers to active stretching. We actively contract the agonist to stretch its antagonist.
For both, strengthening and stretching most beneficial is the workout at the point of highest muscle contraction. For the agonist this point is reached when the muscle origin and insertion are as close as possible to each other to achieve highest contraction tension. For the antagonist this will cause origin and insertion to move the farthest away from each other to achieve highest stretch tension.
Benefits of stretching – strengthening
One major benefit of stretching is the strengthening of the muscle. Within the strength training we are able to stretch the antagonist. But a stretch training has the benefit of strengthening the same muscle to the same time. An intense stretch tension represents high strains for the muscle that could even cause soreness and strength gains. These results were achieved by expert investigations (Buskies W./Boeckh-Behrens W., 2014).
The most beneficial way to perform stretches that cause a significant strengthening to the same time is the passive stretching. The tension here is caused by the gravity, a training partner or other muscles. In that way we can entirely focus on the stretched muscle whereas within the active method we focus on the trained muscle. For more details please also read the articles stretching and types of stretching. For exercises please check out stretching exercises.
A decent stretching not just has the benefit of increasing the mobility of the respective muscle but enhances its strength as well. Our body will adapt to what we do with it. The more limited the range of motion we use the less mobile and flexible our body will get. Use it or lose it!
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