Intro to Muscle Stretching

Intro to Muscle Stretching

If you think you're getting all the stretching you need to maximize strength and muscle mass during your bodybuilding training sessions, or even if you spend a couple of minutes before and/or after your workouts, you're definitely not making the most of your genetics and overall bodybuilding program.

Most athletics endeavors require some development in all components of physical and motor fitness: strength, power, speed, endurance, coordination, balance, agility and flexibility. Obviously, specific sports will place more emphasis on specific component. However, since stretching and flexibility is the ability to move muscles, joints and bones through their full range of motion (ROM), improving range of motion can improve performance.

Stretching is probably the single most important activity that can be used to prevent injuries. Bodybuilding requires a high level of flexibility. So do gymnastics, martial arts, wrestling, yoga and dance. Unfortunately, many athletes don't understand the benefits of stretching and flexibility or even consider it too time-consuming and don't do it.

Key to Flexibility

The way to achieve flexibility is to follow basic principles of exercise science. Stretching to the point of pain activates two different types of nerve-fiber receptors: Golgi tendon organs (GTOs), located in the tendons, and muscle spindles, located in the muscles. The Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles protect the muscles and tendons from damage. If you stretch too aggressively, these receptors will actually decrease flexibility to protect the muscles from damage.

The way to stretch correctly is to avoid the pain threshold. Get into a position where the target muscle feels tight but still comfortable and hold for 10-15 seconds, then release the stretch. This is like a warm-up set for your weight work.

After a few seconds, resume the stretch but focus on a greater relaxation of the muscle group and hold for 20-30 seconds, feeling the muscle loosen up. This format of 2-3 brief stretches is usually enough for both warm-up and cool-down.

Now you can move into a deeper developmental (as opposed to warm-up/ cool-down) stretch and hold the position for 30-60 seconds, concentrating again on relaxing the muscle. Breathe slowly and deeply at all times - never hold your breathe .

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