Stretching's for old people. NOT!
Get ready to get in touch with your inner rubber band because stretching is for everybody. And we're not talking about just a few quick lunges and bending over to touch your toes. We're talking power stretching! back to top
What is stretching?
Stretching your muscles is exactly what it sounds like. You gently and gradually stretch a muscle beyond its usual length. Fit
people and athletes stretch before and after working out. Stretching prepares your muscles for exercise, and then it helps get rid of the lactic acid
that builds up and makes you feel sore a day or two after your workout. Stretching may not sound as sexy as cardiorespiratory exercise
or strength training
, but it is essential for fitness. And it feels great! back to top
Do I have to stretch?
It's easy to skip stretching because it doesn't seem very, well, exerciselike. But stretching is important because it improves your flexibility. A muscle that is stretched regularly has elasticity
. It has more snap! That means you can run faster, throw a ball farther, and lift more weight without straining your muscles and joints. And maybe most important, having flexible muscles reduces your chance of getting sidelined by injury. back to top
How do I stretch?
There are as many stretches as there are muscles in your body. Maybe more! So you'll want to stretch the muscles that you use most. Start with the main muscle groups. Where do you feel sore after a strenuous workout? Those are the muscles that could use a good stretch. back to top
Tips for safe stretching
- Always warm up to increase the blood flow to your muscles, especially when exercising in cold weather. Run in place or do a few jumping jacks or just dance to your favorite music to get ready for stretching. Your body should feel warm before you stretch.
- Stretch your muscles gradually, just until they feel a little uncomfortable. Then hold the stretch. If you feel pain, STOP IMMEDIATELY. You may have injured yourself or you may be doing the stretch wrong. Stretch with a workout buddy who can check your form to make sure you're doing your stretches right.
- Hold each stretch for at least 20 to 30 seconds. DON'T BOUNCE! Bouncing can injure your muscles and joints.
- Take it slow! Stretch for at least 10 to 15 minutes using slow and steady movements.
- Relax into the stretch and remember to breathe! Try not to tense up your neck and shoulder muscles when stretching. back to top